Skip to main content

Full text of "The merchant navy"

See other formats





With Illustrations. z\s. net. 
{History of ihe Great War.) 


Progress, and Economic Basis. 
With Maps and Appendices giving 
the Fleet Laws, etc. 15^. net. 


SHIP : Defence, Commerce, 
Policy, ^s. 6d. net. 

All Rights Reserved 






Vol. II 







The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty 
have given the author access to official docu- 
ments in the preparation of this work, but 
they are in no way responsible for the ac- 
curacy of its statements or the presentation 
of the facts. 

Printed in Great Britain hy 
Bazell, Watson <t Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury. 


In the first volume of this History of the part which the 
Merchant Navy took in the Great War, the record was 
carried down to the early months of 1915, when the con- 
science of the world was shocked by the torpedoing of 
the Lusitania, with a loss of nearly 1,200 lives. The 
present volume continues the narrative to the eve of the 
German Declaration of " unrestricted submarine warfare " 
on February 1st, 1917. 

During this period of twenty months the war at sea 
passed through what may be called an intermediate stage. 
In the spring of 1915 the American President came for- 
ward as the general advocate of neutral rights at sea. 
Although he confined his protests to cases in which the 
sovereign rights of the United States had been disregarded, 
Mr. Wilson none the less became, in effect, the spokesman 
of all neutrals. The sinking of the Arabic in September 
brought on a crisis between America and Germany, and 
at the end of the month the Imperial Government stated 
that it " regretted and disapproved " the incident. No 
guarantee for the future was given ; but the American 
Government was satisfied, knowing, probably, that the 
apology meant more than appeared. Washington had, 
in fact, scored a diplomatic victory ; for the German 
Government had ordered their submarine commanders to 
" cease from any form of submarine war on the West 
Coast of Great Britain or in the Channel." In the Medi- 
terranean, sinkings went on much as usual, as there was 
here less chance of injuring American citizens. For the 
rest of the year a restricted form of submarine warfare, 
against which the American Government made no protest, 
continued in the zone of operations. 

The High Naval Command at Berlin obeyed these 
restrictions most reluctantly, and pressed their Govern- 
ment for wider powers. Early in the new year the Chief 
of the Great General Staff, von Falkenhayn, reported to 


the Emperor that the army would not be able to force 
a decision without naval assistance, and this admission 
seems to have given new force to the naval arguments 
for unrestricted submarine warfare. During February 
1916 the restrictive rules under which submarine com- 
manders were acting were cancelled ; and on March 24th 
the steamer Sussex, which had a number of American 
citizens on board, was torpedoed without warning in the 
English Channel. 

Thoroughly exasperated, the American Government now 
issued what amounted to an ultimatum. The Germans 
gave way, and early in May Count Bernstorff presented 
a Note in which his Government promised that henceforth 
the campaign would be conducted in accordance with the 
general principles of international law, and that no vessel 
would be sunk until some provision had been made for 
the safety of the passengers and crew. 

These concessions ushered in a new phase of the con- 
flict. The Imperial Chancellor had yielded to the American 
demands in the teeth of fierce opposition from the officers 
of the naval and military commands. The thought of 
loyally supporting the Government in the attitude it had 
adopted evidently never entered their minds, as the events 
recorded in this volume attest ; and for the rest of the 
year they strove, by making progressive encroachments 
upon the pledges given, to restore the submarine campaign 
to the position which it had lost. They were tolerably 
successful ; for at the end of 1916 merchant vessels were 
being sunk without warning in the Atlantic and North 
Sea as well as the Mediterranean : in January 1917 the 
number of lives lost in British merchant ships was 276, 
and 245 of these died as a result of the submarine campaign. 
When, a few weeks later, the German Government declared 
unrestricted submarine war, it was practically announcing 
an accomplished fact, but the decision proved the final 
influence which brought the United States into the war. 

In this volume an attempt has been made to reflect 
the course of events as they affected merchant seamen, 
and all who were forced by circumstances to travel by 
sea. It traces the gradual crescendo of callousness ex- 
hibited by the enemy seamen, and of the necessarily slow 
evolution of measures of defence. 

Provision had been made by the Admiralty against 


enemy cruisers which might escape on the high seas, and 
that these measures were not inadequate experience 
proved. By the end of March 1915, as has been recorded, 
this menace had been laid, and during the period covered 
by this volume the only losses inflicted by enemy surface 
craft on merchant shipping were due to the spasmodic 
appearance of raiders whose depredations furnish a narra- 
tive of permanent interest to the student of war. The 
Admiralty had repeatedly warned the nation that it could 
give no guarantee that no enemy vessel would ever 
succeed in breaking through, by night or in thick weather, 
the cordon provided by the Grand Fleet and its auxiliary 

The success which attended the dispositions of the 
Admiralty after the institution of the patrol by the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron exceeded all expectations. The stoppage 
of seaborne supplies combined with the system of com- 
mercial embargo which had been slowly elaborated, 
became so effective, in spite of political action initiated 
by neutral States, that the Germans were commercially 
isolated from the rest of the world, except in so far as 
they were able to obtain supplies overland from neighbour- 
ing countries, and were in a position to take the fullest 
advantage of the protests of neutrals against the strict 
enforcement of the blockade. 

It is perhaps not generally realised that the blockade, 
supported by the ships of the Grand Fleet, was actually 
enforced by merchant ships which, though under the 
command of naval officers, who had under them a nucleus 
of active service ratings and men from the Royal Fleet 
Reserve, were principally manned by merchant seamen. 
The spirit in which these operations were prosecuted in 
fair weather and in foul, and in high latitudes where cold 
and fog prevail, constitutes the supreme vindication of 
the character and seamanlike qualities of the Merchant 
Navy, which was to be re-enforced before the war came to 
its close by thousands of incidents of splendid and daring 
heroism in face of hopeless odds, and noble self-sacrifice 
in the common cause. Captain Charles Fryatt, in par- 
ticular, supplied his fellow-seamen in these anxious months 
with a noble example of unflinching courage and un- 
wavering dignity in face of accusers who were determined, 
as is revealed in these pages, to encompass his death at any 


cost of honour — little thinking what influence the judicial 
murder of this merchant captain would have in crystal- 
lising neutral opinion against Germany. Captain Fryatt 
came to be accepted throughout the civilised world as the 
typical figure of the British merchant seamen. Their 
fellow-countrymen were dependent for life on their staunch- 
ness and seamanlike skill, and the trust was gloriously 

Nor in reviewing the part which the Merchant Navy 
bore during the war can we ignore its services in meeting 
the constant demands of the Royal Navy, or its essential 
contribution in the movement of troops. A fighting fleet 
without the support of a merchant navy must be demobi- 
lised. Moreover, an island State, if it would exercise 
military influence overseas, is dependent upon the efficiency 
of its sea communications, and in the chapter which deals 
with the transport of the first million troops posterity 
is provided with a classic example of how the seas can be 
bridged and increasing armies kept supplied with muni- 
tions, food, and all their various requirements. 

But while the Merchant Navy was supporting the 
Royal Navy, as well as the new armies, in near and many 
distant theatres, it was also fighting its own battles, almost 
defenceless though it was. The extent to which the sub- 
marine would be pressed into the service of a belligerent 
State had not been foreseen in any country. The mere 
fact that the Germans possessed only about a score of 
submarines when hostilities opened, and that at Inter- 
national Conferences the conditions under which warfare 
on seaborne commerce might be conducted had been 
accepted by all maritime Powers, had contributed to a 
feeling of security which events were speedily to dissipate. 

The record of the sufferings of the merchant seamen, 
as set forth in official and other documents which have 
been placed under contribution in the preparation of this 
volume, constitutes an epic of the sea to which history 
provides no parallel. For many months the men of the 
Merchant Service were without any semblance of defence. 
At the very moment when armament was required for the 
Mercantile Marine, the new armies had to be fitted out, 
while the Royal Navy itself also required guns and other 
equipment. The British Government, confronted with the 
treble demands for guns and ammunition as well as for 


trained gunners, was powerless to do all that the desperate 
situation of the merchant seamen suggested as desirable. 
But by the opening of the year 1916, a considerable pro- 
portion of the larger and most essential ships of the Mer- 
cantile Marine had been defensively armed. The progress 
in this respect was not, as will be seen, without its influence 
on enemy policy. The success with which defensively 
armed ships beat off attack, and in many cases inflicted 
serious loss on the enemy, defeated the enemy tactics, and 
their increasing embarrassment was at last to find expres- 
sion in the declaration from Berlin on February 1st, 1917, 
inaugurating the intensive submarine campaign in defiance 
of international law and the code of humanity, as well as 
the pledges which had been repeatedly given. 

In the varying circumstances of the twenty months 
with which this volume deals, merchant seamen not only 
maintained in efficiency the antennae of the blockade 
operations, while at the same time supporting the Navy 
and the armies confronting the enemy overseas, and 
supplying the 45,000,000 people of the United Kingdom 
with food, but also formed the backbone of the Auxiliary 
Patrol. In this new navy, amateurs and professionals — 
in fact, anyone who had acquired familiarity with sea 
conditions — were mobilised. The record of the Auxiliary 
Patrol is an enheartening revelation of the sea aptitudes 
of the British people. Acknowledgment is again made of 
the assistance of Lieutenant-Commander E. Keble Chat- 
terton, R.N.V.R., in the preparation of this portion of 
the History. 

The Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and many ship- 
owners have unreservedly placed their records under con- 
tribution for this History. Without their assistance it 
would have been impossible to present this narrative of 
the ordeal, without its parallel in the long and varied 
records of humanity, to which merchant seamen were 
submitted during the Great War. 


Preface ....... pp. v-ix 



The United States and the sinking of the Lusitania — ^The brotherhood 
of the sea vindicated — -An enemy stratagem — ^The sinking of the s.s. Strath- 
naim with a loss of twenty-one lives — ^The ordeal of the s.s. Armenian — • 
A British master's humanity towards his dog — The fate of the s.s. Anglo- 
Californian — No mercy by the enemy for women and children — 248 lives 
lost in August 1915 — The destruction of the liner Arabic — Experience of 
the crew of the s.s. Diomed — The liner Hesperian sunk — Irritation in 
America — ^The enemy's campaign on the West Coast and in the English 
Channel temporarily abandoned ...... pp. 1-41 



Varied tasks of the Auxiliary Patrol — Submarine on passage to the 
Mediterranean — Zeppelin raid on Dover— The trawler AmadavaVs inter- 
vention saves a merchant ship — Excursion steamer's fight with a sub- 
marine — The Inverlyoyi's fight with a Flanders submarine — Raid off the 
Irish coast — Beaten by high seas — Attack on an oil-tanker . pp. 42-49 


THE fishermen's ORDEAL 

The importance of the fishing industry — Defencelessness of the trawler 
— Wholesale destruction of fishing-craft — Ingenious disguises to trap the 
enemy — Submarine versus submarine — The destruction of U40 — An 
attack on fishing-vessels off the Hebrides — A long duel — The misfortunes 
of U41 — Admiral Startin's stratagem — Heavy losses of sailing-ships — -The 
salvage of the s.v. Kotka — Mine-sweeping operations^ — Keeping open the 
Archangel route — Success of a Lowestoft smack — The Admiralty's attitude 
to the fishing industry ....... pp. 50-73 





The British Army dependent on merchant shipping for transport over- 
seas and on the Navy for protection — Interdependence of naval and mili- 
tary poUcy — Previous transport movements — Creation of the Expedi- 
tionary Force — Its quick mobilisation — Embarrassments of a defensive 
policy .......... pp. 74-81 

(a) The Expeditionary Force dispatched to France 

The cross-Channel movement — Pre-war plans — A change of base — 

Navigational difficulties — Moral of a mistake— Attempt to relieve 

Antwerp — Unexpected demands on the Merchant Service — Scenes at 

Ostend — Distress of the refugees ..... pp. 81-88 

(6) The Ejipire Mobilisation 
Lord Kitchener's decision to mobilise trained troops in France — 
Troops dispatched from Egypt, Malta, and Gibraltar — The New Zealand 
Expeditionary Force — Territorial troops sent oversea — First contingent 
of the Australian Expeditionary Force — Movement of Canada's Expedi- 
tionary Force — Egyptian garrison's voyage to England — ^Wessex and 
Home Counties Territorial Divisions sent to India — British troops brought 
home from India — Reinforcements from New Zealand and Australia — 
Wessex Reserve Territorial Division moved to India. . . pp. 89-96 

(c) The Dardanelles Expedition 
Orders for 29th Division and Naval Division to sail for the Mediter- 
ranean — Rapid embarkation and errors in packing the holds of transports 
— Nineteen transports and five store transports employed — Concentra'tion 
at Alexandria — The 2nd Mounted Division moved to Egypt — Transports 
for Australian and New Zealand troops — Completing the First Million — 
The Merchant Service's record — No lives lost . . . pp. 96-99 



The blockade of Germany instituted by a squadron of old cruisers — 
Early capture of a German vessel — Difficulties of examination of suspected 
ships at sea — Reconstruction of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron — Liners 
requisitioned — Retention of Mercantile Marine crews — Arduous and 
perilous work — -Increasing danger from submarine and mines^The 
Viknor sunk by a mine — Admiralty appreciation of work of Northern 
Patrol — Disposal of Patrol in January 1915 — Difficulties of maintaining 
the Patrol — Sinking of the Bayano by a submarine— Foundering of the 
Clan Macnaughton — Strengthening of the Squadron and increased effi- 
ciency of the Patrol — Aid rendered by the Patrol to neutral shipping — 
Running the blockade — A ruse to trap a suspected vessel — New base in the 
Shetland Islands — Installation of the wireless direction finder — The 


India torpedoed — -The coal problem — Seamanship and courage of prize 
commanders and crews — Eventful voyages — Admiral Jellicoe's tribute 
to the work of the Patrol — -Action of the Alcantara and Andes with the 
German raider Grief — Curiosities of contraband — Change in the command 
of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron — Tribute to Rear-Admiral de Chair 

pp. 100-156 



The attack on Gallipoli — Activity of submarines — ^The problem of the 
Straits of Otranto — Mine-sweeping vessels for the Dardanelles — Trawlers 
at work in the Straits of Gallipoli — Enforced retirement under heavy fire — 
Another unsuccessful attempt — -A change in tactics — Essential aid to the 
army — -The anti-submarine patrol — Rescue of the Serbian army— Sinking 
of an Austrian U-boat — Defending the Otranto Straits — The situation in 
the Mediterranean — Overworked fishermen relieved . pp. 157-176 



German successes in the Mediterranean — Concentration of the enemy 
in southern waters — Merchant vessels svmk without warning — Action of 
the Woodfield with a submarine — Spirited fight by the City of Marseilles — 
The enemy's blows at the communications of the Allies — The experience 
of the Clan Macleod — Sinking of the Clan Macfarlane — ^Terrible experi- 
ences of the crew at sea — Adrift for seven days. . . pp. 177-203 



Torpedoed without warning — -Breach of pledge to the United States — • 
A tragic scene — -334 lives lost — An American passenger's experiences — 
Another passenger's ordeal — Lord Montagu's tribute to the crew — ^Thirty 
hours without food or water ...... pp. 204-215 



The sinking of the Coquet — Callous conduct of a submarine commander 
— Cast adrift 200 miles from the nearest land — " Nothing short of murder " 
— Terrible experiences at sea — One boat lost — Landing on the desolate 
African coast — Attacked by Bedouins — An unequal fight — Survivors taken 
prisoner — Wanderings in captivity — Release after nearly eight months 

pp. 216-230 



The policy of supplying guns and ammunition to merchant ships for 
defensive piu:poses — x4.ttitude of the United States Government to the 


use of American ports by armed vessels — Proclamation by Germany of 
" war zone " — A new problem — The extension of defensive armament 
policy — Admiralty instructions to masters of armed merchant ships — ■ 
Status of armed vessels — Gunnery training of merchant seamen — Right 
of self-defence — Memoranda of the United States respecting armed mer- 
chant vessels — Attitude of neutral countries towards entry of armed 
vessels into their ports ....... pp. 231-246 



Importance of Ostend and Zeebrugge to the enemy — First attack on 
Zeebrugge by the Dover Patrol — Employment of pleastire steamers and 
drifters — Second attack on Flemish coast — Ordeal of the fishermen — Work 
of the Auxiliary Patrol — Laying and maintaining the mine barrage off 
the Flemish coast — A difficult operation — Destruction of submarines 
bj"- drifters — Gallant work of drifters in range of enemy batteries — Destruc- 
tion of the armed yacht Sanda — Tribute of Admiral Bacon to the courage 
of officers and crews of drifters and trawlers — -Loss of the Brighton Queen 
by mine — Difficulties of the campaign off the Flemish coast — Co-operation 
of the Army essential to success— Enemy's violation of neutral waters — 
Enemy's mine-laying — Trawlers sunk — Mine-field across the Moray Firth 
— A widespread campaign — Trawlers working double " tides " — 4,574 
mines destroyed — Reorganisation of the mine-sweeping service — Enemy 
activity overseas — Salving a mine ..... pp. 247-265 



Work of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve — More seaworthy craft 
required — Orders for 550 motor-launches — Varied tasks of the new type 
of craft — First effective barrage — Not a complete success — The barrage 
abandoned — Assisting the French Navy — Successful operations by 
drifters against a submarine — Rescue of German seamen — The enemy taken 
by surprise — U74 destroyed by trawlers — Enemy's dead set on trawlers — 
A fisherman's " battle " — Mine-laying submarine destroyed — An enemy 
raid on the fishing-fleets ...... pp. 266-282 



German destroyers based on Zeebrugge — Raid on the drifters guarding 
the Dover barrage — Attack on the Tenth Drifter Division — A second 
attack — Heavy British casualties — Another attempted raid — German 
plans miscarry — Creation of the Anti-Submarine Department — Difficulties 
in the English Channel — An armed trawler to the rescue — A German 
prisoner's good fortune ....... pp. 283-289 





Confusion of policy in Germany — Sinking of a merchant ship 236 miles 
from the nearest land — Brotherhood of the sea — Ship sunk at anchor by 
a Zeppelin — The s.s. Teutonian destroyed off the Fastnet — Progress of the 
campaign in British waters — Vessels torpedoed without warning — ^The 
escape of an oil-tanker — Value of defensive armament — Loss of the 
Minneapolis — The G old mouth'' s unequal duel — ^Torpedoing of the Sussex — 
The German Government's pledge ..... pp. 290-306 



The ordeal of the s.s. Brussels — Communications in the North Sea — 
Shipmaster's "highly meritorious and courageous conduct" — Escape of 
the Brussels — Captain Fryatt's manoeuvre — The Admiralty's congratula- 
tions — Capture of the Brussels — Captain Fryatt and the first officer made 
prisoners — Solitary coniinenient for cross-examination — Trial by coiort- 
martial — Fruitless request for postponement from Berlin — The case for 
the defence — American intervention — Captain Fryatt's heroic death — 
Neutral condemnation of German action — Court of inquiry in Berlin — • 
Captain Fryatt condemned as " a franc-tireur of the seas " — Lord Stowell's 
judgment — " Defence is a natural right " — American rulings, pp. 307-336 



Division of opinion in Germany on the use of submarines — Temporary 
success of the Imperial Chancellor — Activities in the Mediterranean — 
A defenceless ship, the Destro, saved by speed — The hopeless duel of the 
Roddam — Abandonment thirty-five miles from land — -Enemy operations 
in the Arctic Ocean — The policy of spurlos versenkt — ^The loss of the Rappa- 
hannock — A demonstration off the North American coast — Sinkings in 
British waters — The problem of the passenger ship— A German com- 
mander's humanity — Over thirty hours in the boats — The fate of the s.s. 
Cabot ia — The Fabian under fire — Prisoners on board a submarine — ^The 
sink-at-sight campaign in the Mediterranean — P. & O. liner Arabia tor- 
pedoed without warning — Increasing disregard at sea of German pledges — • 
The destruction of the City of Birmingham — A Clan liner's fight — The 
escape of the s.s. Palm Branch — Experiences of the crews of German sub- 
marines — Mounting losses of merchant ships — Successful action of the 
Caledonia — The oil-tanker Conch set on fire in the English Cliannel — An 
exhibition of fine seamanship — The eneraj^'s guile — The hard fate of the 
Artist — On the eve of the intensive campaign . . . pp. 337-379 




I. The "Mowe" 
False sense of security at sea — Warnings of the Admiralty — Escape of 
the Mowe from Hamburg — First capture off Cape Finisterre — Utilisation 
of British cargo of coal — Looting of the Author — The Elder Dempster 
steamship Appam captured — Gallant fighting of the Clan Mactavish — 
Dispatch of the Appam to Newport News with prisoners — Action of the 
United States authorities — Raider's seizure of the Westbum — Prisoners 
placed on board the Westburyi for purposes of release — Arrival at Santa 
Cruz — Ship scuttled by Germans — Return of the Mowe to Germany — 
Second cruise begun — Spirited action of the Mount Temple— The 
Yarrowdale intercepted and used as an auxiliary — Crowded with 
prisoners, the Yarrowdale is dispatched to Swinemiinde — ^The misfortiines 
of the Dramatist — An Admiralty collier svmk — 300 prisoners placed on 
board the Hudson Maru and landed at Pernambuco — Fate of the 
Netherby Hall — Fine resistance by the Otaki — Posthumous Victoria 
Cross awarded to Lieutenant Bisset Smith, R.N.R., the master of the 
Otaki — Retvirn of the Mowe to Germany .... pp. 380-415 

n. The "Seeadler" 
American sailing-ship converted into a raider and fitted with a motor — ■ 
Gallant attempt of the Gladys Royle to escape — -Chase of the Lundy Island 
— A British captain's experience on his honeymoon — The Horngarth under 
fire for nearly an hom* — British seamen prisoners placed on board a cap- 
tured French vessel and sent to Rio de Janeiro — Wreck of the Seeadler off 
Mopelia Island ........ pp. 415-422 

in. The "Wolf" 
The s.s. Wachenfels, equipped with mines, guns, and torpedoes and 
provided with a seaplane, is sent to sea as a raider — Seizure of the 
Turritella and use as an auxiliary raider — ^The captured ship intercepted 
by H.M.S. Odin and then scuttled by the Germans — The misfortune of the 
Jumna — Master's diary of life on board the raider — -Prisoners' uncomfort- 
able quarters — Extensive mine-laying by the Wolf— A. forttmate meeting 
— The Wairuna chased by the raider's seaplane and captured — Mine-laying 
in New Zealand waters— -The raider in hiding with her latest prize — A 
narrow escape — The Spanish steamer Igotz Mendi seized and used as a 
prison ship — Homeward journey of the Wolf in company with the Igotz 
Mendi — Stranding of the Igotz Mendi — Merchant ships damaged or sunk 
by the Wolf's mine-fields ...... pp. 422-435 

APPENDIX A. Instructions to Merchant Captains . pp. 436-440 

„ B. Interpretation of same by German 

Court of Inquiry . . . p. 441 

,, C. Analysis of Vessels Intercepted . pp. 442-443 

INDEX pp. 444-464 


The Loss of a British Merchant Ship 
An Armed Drifter ..... 

On Watch in the Arctic .... 

A Boarding Boat on Duty 
On the Forecastle of an Armed Merchant 
Cruiser ...... 

Left in an Open Boat .... 

Drifters Hoisting in a Torpedo 
Armed Trawlers in the North Sea 
Releasing a Depth Charge from a Drifter 
Vessel Hit by a German Submarine 
Sunk without Warning .... 

The Sinking of the "Georgic" 






The Tenth Cruiser Squadron in the Autumn 
of 1915 ...... 

The Mine Peril in Home Waters 
Statistical Diagram of Blockade Operations 

ING OF THE Blockade in 1915 . 


At end c] 

The Tenth Cruiser Squadron, the Work- \''°t"'l 

' ' with Ap- 


n— 2 






The sinking of the Lusitania, in circumstances which have 
already been described, involving the loss of 1,198 lives, 
focused the attention of the world upon the character of 
the war upon commerce which the enemy was prosecuting, 
and emphasised the fundamental characteristics which 
differentiated it from commerce destruction as practised 
by belligerents in former wars. The United States Govern- 
ment, already disturbed by the destruction of the Falaba 
and other ships conveying American citizens, could not 
avoid taking official notice of the sinking of a great liner 
which had left one of its ports, carrying a large number 
of Americans, with a guarantee that it was a peaceful 
vessel of commerce. Within less than a week of the 
disaster, the State Department at Washington had drafted 
and forwarded to Berlin an explicit protest. In this 
Note, dated May 13th, 1915, the United States Government 
stated that 

" It assumes . . . that the Imperial Government accept, 
as of course, the rule that the lives of non-combatants, 
whether they be of neutral citizenship or citizens of one 
of the nations at war, cannot lawfully or rightly be put 
in jeopardy by the capture or destruction of an unarmed 
merchantman, and recognise also, as all other nations do, 
the obligation to take the usual precautions of visit and 
search to ascertain whether a suspected merchantman is 
in fact of belligerent nationality, or is in fact carrying 
contraband of war under a neutral flag," 

The attention of the Imperial Government was called 
with the utmost earnestness to the fact that "the 


objection to their present method of attack against 
the trade of their enemies Hes in the practical impos- 
sibihty of employing submarines in the destruction of 
commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness, 
reason, justice, and humanity, which all modern opinion 
regards as imperative. It is practically impossible for 
the officers of a submarine to visit a merchantman at 
sea and examine her papers and cargo. It is practically 
impossible for them to make a prize of her, and, if they 
cannot put a prize crew on board of her, they cannot sink 
her without leaving her crew and all on board of her to the 
mercy of the sea in her small boats." 

In some instances, it was added, " time enough for even 
that poor measure of safety was not given," and it was 
finally declared that it was manifest that " submarines 
cannot be used against merchantmen, as the last few 
weeks have shown, without an inevitable violation of 
many sacred principles of justice and humanity." This 
Note was something more than a mere assertion of the 
right of American citizens to use the seas : it constituted 
an indictment of the principles governing the submarine 
war, reminding the nations of the world, whether belli- 
gerent or neutral, of the unprecedented character of the 
ordeal to which British merchant seamen in particular 
were being exposed. 

In contrast with the savagery which had marked the 
destruction of the Lusitania, an example of the sentiments 
of brotherhood which continued to move the seamen of 
the old maritime races to assist comrades in distress, 
irrespective of race, language, or creed, was furnished by 
the crew of a Norwegian steamer less than a fortnight after 
the sinking of the Cunard liner. The steamer Drumcree 
(4,052 tons) was passing Trevose Head on May 18th when 
a violent explosion occurred. Though a double watch 
on the bridge had been maintained since leaving port, 
no one had seen a submarine, but the wake of a torpedo 
had been observed about 100 yards away off on the star- 
board beam. Time did not permit of the helm being used 
successfully, and the vessel was struck near the cross 
bunker. She was wrecked from practically No. 2 hold 
to the engine-room ; she had gaping holes in her side and 
deck ; the deck-plates were buckled and the beams twisted 


into strange shapes. The water poured into the hold, as 
well as into the engine- and boiler-rooms. The wireless-room 
and its installations were reduced to ruins, but the operator, 
though he had been injured, remained at his post until 
the master (Mr. A. Hodgson), having satisfied himself 
that it was impossible to make a call for assistance, sent 
him to his boat. Fortunately all the boats had been swung 
out when the Drumcree left Barry Dock, and as the ship 
lost way they were lowered and quickly manned and then 
stood by. 

In the meantime Captain Hodgson, in company with 
the chief officer, had made a hasty survey and had 
satisfied himself that there was still a chance of saving 
the ship, although the water had risen to sea level 
in the injured compartments. In spite of the warning 
signal which Captain Hodgson had hoisted, several vessels, 
regardless of danger to themselves, closed on the Drumcree. 
The Norwegian steamer Ponto was hailed by Captain 
Hodgson, and the master was told that the Drumcree was 
in no immediate danger of foundering in the moderate 
weather which then prevailed. He was asked to give 
a tow in the direction of Cardiff, keeping close to the land 
on the English side of the Channel. Though the neutral 
master cannot have been unconscious of the peril in which 
he stood, he readily agreed to render this service and 
brought his ship smartly into position under the bow of the 
Drumcree. With the help of the two crews, hawsers were 
made secure, and then the Ponto, having taken sixteen of 
the crew of the Drumcree out of one of the lifeboats, began 
to tow the damaged steamer. That the position of the 
Ponto was an unenviable one was shown shortly afterwards 
when a second attack was made on the crippled ship, 
a torpedo striking her farther aft than on the first occasion. 
Another explosion occurred, throwing the hatch coverings 
of No. 3 hold and other wreckage into the air, whilst 
a column of water rose as high as the mast. The ship 
began to settle by the stern with a list to starboard, and 
it looked as though she would sink at once. The Ponto 
had no recourse but to free herself from her dangerous 
companion. Captain Hodgson ordered the remainder of 
the officers and men of the Drumcree into the lifeboat 
which was lying alongside. A hasty inspection of the 
after part of the vessel showed that the water was still 


rising, so at last Captain Hodgson joined his men, intending 
to remain in the vicinity until his vessel disappeared. 

" The submarine, however, now appeared, showing only 
the periscope, close to the stern of the ship and man- 
oeuvred," as Captain Hodgson afterwards recorded, " as 
if bent on further mischief. We therefore pulled to the 
Ponto, which was standing by, and relieved our boat of 
most of its load. Then, as the captain of the Ponto was 
naturally anxious about the safety of his own ship, some 
of the officers and engineers volunteered to remain by 
the ship [the Drumcree] in the boat with me until she should 
sink or so that we might at least (in the unlikely event of 
her remaining afloat) hoist a night warning signal. The 
Ponto's people, however, warned me that the submarine 
was again in sight close to us, and I therefore felt compelled 
to abandon her and boarded the Ponto with my officers 
at 5 p.m." 

The signal station at Lundy was told of the position 
of the derelict, since she might become a danger to navi- 
gation in the darkness. In recounting the circumstances 
in which his ship was lost, Captain Hodgson remarked 
that " the captain of the Ponto is, in my opinion, deserving 
of very great credit for the resolute manner in which he 
stood by us, at no small risk to himself and his own crew, 
as also for the courtesy and consideration with which he 
received us on board and provided for our wants, which 
has been deeply appreciated by us all." Though his ship 
had gone down, the master had the satisfaction of testifying 
that his crew had behaved well and had carried out orders 
without confusion, although they were new to the vessel 
and had had but one opportunity of carrying out boat 
drill. " The officers and men," he added, " I will not 
attempt to praise ; they worked with me to the last 
in endeavouring to bring the ship to port and were as 
reluctant as I to abandon her." 

Though the submarine war was still in its early stage, 
merchant seamen were learning that the enemy was adopt- 
ing every expedient of which he could think to lure them 
to destruction. On the last day of May, when the Royal 
Mail Steam Packet Company's ship Z)emerara (11,484 tons), 
on passage from Liverpool to Lisbon, was off the south 


coast of Ireland, what appeared to be a mine was observed 
floating on the surface of the water. The master [Lieu- 
tenant G, S. Gillard, R.N.R. (retired)], recognising that 
a mine was a danger to navigation, approached to within 
200 yards. Rifle fire was then directed on the supposed 
mine, which was hit several times. The bullets of the 
•45 Martini appeared to produce no effect, so Captain 
Gillard decided to use his 4-7-inch gun. One shell 
fell close to the supposed mine but failed to detonate it. 
An hour after this attempt had been made to destroy 
what was thought to be a danger to shipping, the periscope 
of a submarine was seen on the starboard quarter. The 
enemy vessel at once pursued the British ship, firing from 
time to time. The Demerara put on her best speed and 
the enemy's fire was returned at 1,000 yards, the British 
red ensign having been hoisted. The submarine then 
dived. The Demerara was manoeuvred with skill so as 
to keep the submarine on the quarter between the wake 
and bow waves. Periodically the submarine showed her 
periscope, and each time fire was opened by the British 
ship. In all thirteen rounds were discharged. The thir- 
teenth was a lucky shot. It appeared to strike the top 
of the periscope. As it did not ricochet, the captain of 
the Demerara assumed that the periscope had been hit. 
Whether that was the case or not, at any rate nothing 
further was seen of the submarine. Events supported 
the conjecture that the mine which the Demerara had tried 
to destroy was merely a decoy. 

The incident had a curious sequel. On September 6th 
the German Legation at Buenos Aires delivered a note 
verbale to the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs to 
the effect that 

" The steamer of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company 
Demerara, which will arrive here probably to-morrow, the 
7th, was guilty of attacking the armed forces of His 
Majesty the German Emperor. It is thus demonstrated 
that her armament was not mounted for purposes of 
defence. For this reason the Imperial Legation begs the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic to be good 
enough to take the requisite steps in order that the com- 
petent authorities shall apply the treatment of war vessels, 
from every point of view, to the said vessel on her arrival." 


The British Government was able to show that the 
British vessel had employed its guns merely for the purpose 
of offering defence against an attack carried out, moreover, 
under cover of a decoy mine. Captain Gillard was men- 
tioned in despatches in recognition of the skilful manner 
in which he had saved his vessel. 

When May closed the record showed that in that month 
nineteen ships, of 84,025 tons, had been sunk. In the 
amount of tonnage destroyed, as well as in the number 
of men, women, and children killed, this month was the 
worst which had yet been experienced, and in no corre- 
sponding period during the remainder of the war did 
the destruction of human life reach so high a figure. In 
addition to the shipping destroyed, nineteen vessels, of 
117,591 tons, were damaged or molested by enemy sub- 
marines. No losses were sustained owing to the action of 
mines or aircraft. 

During the early months of the summer events were 
to show that the protest of the United States Government, 
the sense of brotherhood exhibited by neutral seamen, 
and the pluck, skill, and endurance of British officers and 
men were producing no effect on the official mind of Ger- 
many. It was still believed in Berlin that the submarine 
would prove the instrument of speedy victory, and then 
Germany would be free to deal with neutrals, and in parti- 
cular with the United States. So the campaign against 
merchant shipping was pursued with a relentless insen- 
sibility to all human instincts. On the opening day of 
June eight men were killed when the Saidieh (3,803 tons) 
was sunk. On June 9th the Lady Salisbury (1,446 tons) 
went down, three men losing their lives, and six days later 
the master of the Strathnairn (4,336 tons), as well as 
twenty of his companions, was drowned. The month 
closed with the sinking of the Armenian (8,825 tons) with 
the loss of twenty-nine lives, of the Scottish Monarch 
(5,043 tons) with a loss of fifteen lives, and of the Lomas 
(3,048 tons) with the loss of one life. The blowing up of 
the Am dale (3,583 tons) by a mine at the entrance to the 
White Sea, when three were killed, raised the death roll 
for the month of June to eighty-one. 

Ample evidence was forthcoming that the Germans, 
in spite of their protestations, had no intention of 
abandoning the practice of torpedoing ships without 


warning. The Saidieh was on her way from Alexandria 
to Hull when she met her fate near the Elbow Buoy in 
the North Sea at 2 p.m. on June 2nd. She was unarmed, 
and had almost completed her voyage when a shock was 
felt from stem to stern and volumes of water rose on the 
starboard side. The chief mate (Mr. Daniel Jenkins), 
standing on the bridge with the Trinity pilot, who had 
been taken aboard at Deal, at once sounded the whistle 
and ordered all hands to get ready to lower the boats. 
Two minutes previously the master (Mr. J. R. Ryall) had 
gone into his cabin. He rushed to the deck when he felt 
the concussion. The ship was rapidly sinking, and Mdthin 
six minutes had disappeared beneath the waters. In 
addition to her crew of forty-one officers and men, she 
had on board eight distressed seamen. When the boats 
were swung out, six firemen and an A.B. were reported 
as missing, and the presumption was that they had been 
killed by the explosion. While No. 3 boat, which con- 
tained several members of the crew and the stewardess, 
was being lowered an accident occurred. One of the falls 
had been cut by a Greek seaman, the boat capsized, and 
the occupants were thrown into the water. They were 
fortunately rescued, patrol-vessels having quickly come 
to the scene. While these events were occurring, the 
chief mate noticed a submarine's periscope 50 or 100 
yards distant, but the enemy had no compassion on the 
unfortunate mariners and their companions. After being 
rescued, the stewardess died from the shock she had 
sustained. The survivors and the body of the dead 
stewardess were landed at Chatham. 

The sinking of the Straihnairn caused heavier casualties 
than had occurred in any ordinary trading-vessel since 
the Tangistan went down on March 9th. The Straihnairn 
(master, Mr. John Browne) was bound from Penarth to 
Archangel with coal. At 9.30 p.m. on June 15th, when 
the vessel was twenty-five miles N, by E. from Bishop and 
Clerks, the second mate (Mr. J. H. Wood), who was asleep 
in his cabin, after being relieved by the chief officer, was 
thrown out of his bunk by an explosion. When he 
reached the deck he noticed that, although way was still 
on the ship, a lifeboat and a gig had been lowered and had 
been smashed against the vessel's side. Captain Browne 
came to the conclusion that the vessel was sinking and 


slipped down a lifeline into a lifeboat which had been 
lowered with a number of Chinese seamen in it. Owing to 
the boat's painter being cut before the boat had been 
released from the dropping gear, it also collided with the 
vessel's side and all the occupants were washed out of it. 
Realising the error which had been made in lowering the 
boats too soon, Mr, Wood waited until the ship was stopped 
before launching the remaining gig. Fortunately the 
Strathnairn, though a little deeper in the water, had taken 
only a slight list to port, and the gig was successfully 
launched with the assistance of the remaining ten China- 
men on board. Mr. Wood allowed the gig to drift astern 
in the hope of picking up the captain, but was disappointed. 

At this moment he saw the periscope of a submarine mov- 
ing round the stern of the vessel, taking no interest in the 
plight of the unhappy survivors. For some time the gig 
remained near the doomed ship, and then Mr. Wood decided 
to row to the eastward. Early on the following morning, 
after a night of many vicissitudes, he and his companions 
were picked up by the Amanda of Padstow, and later in 
the day reached Milford Haven. The experience of the 
first engineer (Mr. J. C. Smith) and the Chinese carpenter 
was less happy. The former jumped overboard with the 
Chinaman and throughout the night the two men, white 
man and yellow man, clung for life to a capsized boat. 
Not until 6.30 on the following morning, after nine hours' 
physical and mental agony, were they picked up by the 
Ahhotsford of Glasgov/ and landed at Swansea. 

These two vessels, together with the Inkum (4,747 tons), 
the Strathcarron (4,374 tons), the Lady Salisbury (1,446 
tons), the Erna Boldt (1,731 tons), the Leuctra (3,027 tons), 
the Dulcie (2,033 tons), the Tunisiana (4,220 tons), and the 
Dumfriesshire (2,622 tons), were all torpedoed without 
warning. The Armenia?!, the Scottish Monarch, and the 
Lomas were, however, captured before being sunk. Never- 
theless the loss of life was heavy. The first-named vessel, 
of the Leyland Line, was on voyage from Newport News 
to Avonmouth with 1,422 mules for H.M. Government. 
Shortly after noon on June 28th, she was steering to pass 
ten miles north of Lundy Island when she received a wire- 
less message from Crookhaven stating that submarines 
were active south of the Smalls. The master (Mr. James 
Irickey) determined to make for Trevose Head. At 6.40 


p.m., when twenty miles west of this point, a submarine 
was sighted on the port bow, about three miles away, 
steaming towards the Armenian on the surface. As the 
British ship, though unarmed, had a speed of 14| knots, 
Captain Irickey decided to make a fight for it. 

He accordingly headed for the submarine with the in- 
tention of ramming her. The enemy, however, opened 
fire and Captain Irickey turned his ship stern on to the 
submarine so as to decrease the target. Several shots fell 
ahead and astern of the merchantman until the range was 
found, when the wireless telegraph house was wrecked. An- 
other shell entered the firehold and started a fire. Captain 
Irickey with his officers and men set to work to subdue the 
flames, but other fires weve caused by subsequent shells. 
One struck the steering gear, putting it out of action, and 
another fell on the engine-room hatch, sending debris on 
to the engines, which were, however, kept at full speed. 
During this phase of the one-sided action twelve of the 
crew were killed and others injured. Captain Irickey still 
held on to his course. 

When the unequal ordeal had lasted nearly an hour, 
the funnel was struck, the shell passing down into the 
body of the ship. The stokehold was put in darkness 
and the boilers were so damaged that steam could not be 
maintained. The master then realised that escape was 
impossible. He hoisted the white flag and blew the ship's 
whistle in token of surrender, preparations being made 
simultaneously to abandon ship. Whether the submarine 
failed to notice the British signals or was determined to 
punish to the uttermost so persistent an opponent will 
never be known. At any rate the shells continued to fall 
on the crippled vessel, damaging the boats' falls and 
causing some of the boats to hang by one fall only, with the 
result that many men were thrown into the water. Even- 
tually all the surviving members of the crew were able to 
get away. The captain, satisfied that no one was on board, 
himself left. But shortly afterwards an improvised raft 
was seen leaving the Armenian with the chief engineer, 
the veterinary surgeon, and the purser ; they also were 
rescued. When all six boats were clear of the ship, the 
submarine approached and, getting into position on the 
port quarter, fired a torpedo into the Armenian. Under 
Captain Irickey's orders, the hatches of the lower hold had 


previously been battened down, the ballast tanks pumped 
out, and the refrigerator boxes secured, thus giving addi- 
tional buoyancy to the vessel. Consequently the first 
torpedo left the Armenian still afloat and another was 
discharged, this time into the stokehold, with the result 
that the ship forthwith began to sink rapidly. Owing to 
the action of the captain, the enemy had to expend about 
fifty shells, as well as two torpedoes. As she sank rapidly 
the Armenian, with a length of 530 feet, presented a re- 
markable spectacle ; half her length was reared into the 

The ship having been dispatched, the submarine — 
U38 — dived and disappeared. The commander showed, 
however, a measure of humanity ; before diving he rescued 
three or four men from the water. Captain Irickey's boat 
being the only one with a compass, the other boats Avere 
collected and connected astern. A course was then made 
for land under sail. At 7 o'clock the following morning the 
Belgian steam trawler President Stein took the men on 
board and at noon turned them over to the destroyers 
Mansfield and Milne, which landed them at Avonmouth 
that afternoon. The unequal action resulted in the loss 
of twenty-nine lives, including the fourth engineer and 
twenty American cattle attendants. The Admiralty 
marked their appreciation of the master's efforts to save 
his ship and its valuable cargo by conferring upon him 
the Distinguished Service Cross. The quartermaster, 
W. A. Goss, and two firemen, T. Davies and E. G. Talbot, 
received the D.S.M., and the second officer, Mr. H. O. 
Davies, and the chief engineer, Mr. J. Crighton, obtained 

The Scottish Monarch was a slower ship than the Arme- 
nian, but nevertheless the master (Mr. R. H. Potter) made 
a determined effort to get away from the enemy. The 
vessel was forty miles south of Ballycottin Light, County 
Cork, when the third officer sighted two submarines 
about two miles off on the starboard beam. They were 
flying the German ensign. Captain Potter immediately 
went on the bridge and starboarded his helm so as to bring 
the submarines astern of him. He proceeded to steer a 
zigzag course at about 11| knots. One of the submarines 
then disappeared, but the other quickly overhauled the 
Scottish Monarch and when about a mile away opened fire. 


The first shell did little damage, but three later ones, fired 
at close quarters, made a hole in the port side of the vessel. 
There was nothing for it but to stop the engines and lower 
the boats, into which the crew made their escape. Captain 
Potter, however, remained on the bridge while the sub- 
marine continued firing at intervals, holding the starboard 
side. When the decks of the Scottish Monarch were 
awash, the master got into his own boat during an interval 
in the attack, and three-quarters of an hour later the 
Scottish Monarch sank out of sight. Captain Potter and 
nineteen of the crew were picked up by the Miami of 
Glasgow, about thirty miles south of Hook Point, early 
on the following morning and landed the same day. 

The submarine's attack had caused no casualties, but in 
leaving all these men afloat far from land the enemy became 
responsible for the loss of fifteen lives. The sea was 
choppy and the two boats which were still afloat 
remained in company for some time, but soon the one 
under the first mate (Mr. J. Gabrielsen) capsized. All 
the hands managed to regain the boat, but she was full 
of water and the tanks were adrift on the starboard side. 
In the meantime sight had been lost of the master's boat. 
The unfortunate men, with the first mate, were left without 
hope of succour in their waterlogged craft. Before mid- 
night she had capsized three times more and only four 
men were left — the first mate, the carpenter (Michael App- 
son), and two seamen, all of them with lifebelts on. On 
the following morning a vessel was seen, and the carpenter 
hoisted a handkerchief on a stick hoping to attract attention. 
Although the strange ship passed close by the boat, the 
pitiful signal of distress was evidently not seen. Then 
the two seamen became exhausted and were washed over- 
board. Vessels appeared on the horizon and disappeared, 
since there was no means of attracting their attention. 
About five o'clock that afternoon, after weary hours of 
hope unfulfilled, the first mate, who was sitting aft, dropped 
with exhaustion into the water which filled the boat, and 
died. The Scottish Monarch having gone down on the 
evening of June 29th, it was not until eight o'clock on the 
evening of July 1st that the carpenter, the sole survivor 
of the boatload, was picked up by a fishing-boat and landed 
on the following afternoon at St. Ives, where the body of 
the first mate was quietly carried ashore. Among the 


flotsam and jetsam washed up at He de Batz nearly a 
fortnight later was a cylindrical lifebuoy bearing the name 
of the sunken ship, all that remained of the Scottish Monarch 
of Glasgow. 

The experience of the Lomas, to the sinking of which 
reference has been made, was happily less tragic. All 
went well on her voyage from Buenos Aires to Belfast 
until June 30th, when the vessel was some distance off 
Bishop Rock. The master (Mr. Phillip Evans) was on the 
bridge when, in the clear morning light, he saw a sub- 
marine about two miles astern of him well exposed on the 
surface. He at once gave orders for all possible speed 
and steered so as to keep the enemy ship astern of him. 
The submarine gave chase, and when she had drawn within 
two miles of the Lomas began firing. 

Captain Evans still held on his course, counting 
the shells as they fell. Seventeen shells were fired and 
nine of them hit the vessel, the second mate being 
killed. The Lomas was only making about 7^ knots, 
so, as escape was impossible, the master stopped the 
ship after an ordeal which had lasted an hour and a 
half. The submarine was then almost alongside the 
vessel. When the crew had left the ship in the boats, 
the enemy vessel set to work to sink her by gunfire 
and torpedo. As the Lomas began to settle down, the 
submarine commander hailed the lifeboats to put the 
inquiries which, according to established custom, should 
have preceded offensive action. What was the name of 
the vessel and her nationality, her tonnage and cargo ; 
where did she come from and where was she bound ? 
All these questions having been answered, and the Lomas 
having gone down, the submarine disappeared. One man 
had been killed during the stern chase, but the master and 
the rest of the crew were fortunate in being picked up 
within an hour and landed at Milford Haven. 

These were a few of the tragic incidents which marked 
the progress of the submarine campaign during the month 
following upon the destruction of the Lusitania and the 
dispatch of the Note of protest by the United States 
Government. The record would be incomplete were there 
no reference to the circumstances which attended the 
destruction of the lona (3,344 tons) on June 3rd. The 
Io7m was twenty- two miles off Fair Island (lat. 59° 13' N, 


and long. 1° 12' W.) when she was pursued by a submarine. 
The master (Mr. D. Ritchie) had hopes of escape and 
ordered all possible speed. The submarine then began 
firing, one shot passing through the after wheel-house, 
and a second striking the port side of the saloon. Captain 
Ritchie's own cabin was wrecked and a fireman was 
injured. Realising that it was hopeless to make further 
resistance, the master stopped the ship and the crew took 
to the boats. While the men were taking their places, 
the enemy ship continued firing, one shot injuring the 
second mate ; the steward was also slightly wounded. 
The ship was then sunk by a torpedo. The shipless officers 
and men were thus left afloat without apparent hope of 
rescue. The submarine, after sinking the lona, destroyed 
a trawler which was in the vicinity, and the merchant 
seamen and fishermen then joined company and shaped 
a course for land. They rowed in desperation through 
the night, and happily on the following morning were 
sighted by the patrol trawler Dover and taken into 

The month of July opened badly for the British Mer- 
cantile Marine, no fewer than seven vessels being destroyed 
on the first day. Of these two were attacked near the 
Fastnet and the remainder at the entrance of the English 
Channel. The enemy continued to exhibit a wide catho- 
licity, not disdaining to sink comparatively small sailing- 
vessels, at a great expenditure of time, labour, and ex- 
plosives. The enemy's methods in this respect were 
illustrated in the case of the sailing-vessel L. C. Tower 
(518 tons). This little four-mast schooner (master, Mr. 
L. C. Tower) was on her way to Newport, Monmouthshire, 
with timber when she fell in with a submarine. With all 
sails set, she was making a course towards Lundy Island. 
It must have been apparent to the Germans that the 
vessel was of comparative unimportance, but, nevertheless, 
they overhauled the L. C. Tower at their best speed, ordered 
the vessel to be abandoned, and then expended a good 
deal of trouble in setting her on fire. The crew got ashore 
at Crookhaven in their motor-boat, and the vessel, burnt 
to the water's edge, was afterwards towed into Berehaven. 
On the afternoon of the same day the Welhury (3,591 tons) 
was sunk in the same locality. The master (Mr. Robert 
Newton), on noticing that the enemy was trying to signal 


" Abandon ship immediately," tm-ned his vessel's head 
towards the nearest point of land. The submarine, noticing 
the mancEuvre, proceeded to cut the Welbury off, and then 
discharged a warning gun. The pursuit was a short one, 
as the enemy craft had the advantage of speed, and, 
moreover, maintained a steady fire on the vessel, not 
ceasing even after she had stopped. One shot went 
through the engine-room. Whereas in the case of the 
L. C. Tower the British flag was confiscated, no step was 
taken to obtain such a souvenir out of the Welbury. 

More serious events were in the meantime happening 
at the entrance to the Channel ; the Gadshy (3,497 tons), 
the Craigard (3,286 tons), and the Richmond (3,214 tons) 
being sunk off the Wolf Rock, and the Caucasian (4,656 
tons) and the Inglernoor (4,331 tons) captured and destroyed 
off the Lizard. In the case of the Gadshy (master, Mr. St. 
John Olive) the submarine commander showed unexpected 
consideration for the men whom he was leaving afloat in 
their small boats ; he inquired whether they had pro- 
visions and sails, and then, giving them the position — 
which proved to be incorrect — torpedoed the merchant 
ship and disappeared. Fortunately the crew was soon 
afterwards picked up by a Greek steamer and landed at 
Londonderry, without further misadventure, two days 

At this early date in the submarine campaign, British 
seamen were irritated by the ignominious fate which was 
dogging them ; their vessels were in most cases of slow 
speed and they were, in accordance with the custom of 
many years, without any means of defence. The story 
of the Craigard (master, Mr. A. McCuUough) may be given 
as typical of the misfortunes which often faced the dauntless 
men of the British Merchant Navy. From the beginning 
of his voyage, from Galveston (Texas) to Le Havre, nothing 
but disaster had befaflen him. On June 16th the high- 
pressure engine broke down. That seemed the crowning 
disaster. After a stoppage of ten hours. Captain McCul- 
lough was able to proceed at an average speed of 7| knots. 
His troubles, however, were not over. 

" At about 8.30 p.m. July 1st and in lat. 49° 8', long. 
6° 10' W. I saw," he afterwards declared, " to the south- 
ward of us, and at a distance of about six to seven miles. 


what seemed to me something like a torpedo-boat coming 
up to us very fast, a dense volume of smoke coming from 
the craft. I had my doubts what this stranger might be ; 
however, I was not long kept in suspense, for without any 
warning whatever the stranger commenced firing at us, 
and as he came nearer he displayed a signal to get into the 
boats at once, and at the same time he hoisted the German 
flag. When he commenced firing I ordered the helm 
hard a-starboard, stopped my engines, and ordered the 
boats to be lowered, keeping the craft as well astern as 
possible. He kept firing away at us until he saw the 
boats in the water. Then he went on the port quarter 
and let us have a few more on the port side. He then 
left us and went after another steamer about a mile to the 
north of us and commenced shelling this steamer, putting 
about a dozen shells into her on both sides. Afterwards 
he returned to my steamer and finished her off about 9 p.m. 
of the same date ; it being dark at the time, I do not 
know whether he boarded her or not, as we were about a 
mile away from the steamer when a terrific explosion 
occurred at the hour named above. Thus I was forced 
to abandon my ship tlirough not having any arms on 
board to retaliate or defend ourselves, and, being in a help- 
less state as regards speed, I could not do more than I did." 

The crew were more fortunate than perhaps they 
realised at the time. None of them was injured, and eight 
hours after they had taken to the boats they were picked 
up by one of His Majesty's ships and landed at Plymouth. 

The sinking of the Caucasian and the Inglemoor took 
place in the early morning, and was marked by an incident 
suggesting that, though the enemy was bent on ignoring 
the higher code of humanity, some of the German sea- 
men still retained, curiously enough, a kindly feeling 
towards dumb animals. The Caucasian (master, Mr. F. H. 
Robinson), on voyage from London to Norfolk and Jack- 
sonville, U.S.A., was about eighty miles south of the 
Lizard when at 5,45 a.m. a submarine was sighted in 
the clear morning light. She was on the surface and 
was coming at full speed towards the merchantman. She 
signalled "Abandon ship at once," but Captain Robinson, 
though his vessel could not do more than about 9 knots, 
ignored the order and steered a zigzag course, hoping to 

II — 3 


keep the enemy astern. The submarine then opened fire, 
the shells falling all round the Caucasian, and at last the 
steersman left the wheel. The master, who had been 
on the upper bridge watching the movements of the 
submarine, descended to the lower bridge and took the 
wheel, while the second mate remained on the lookout. 
After a chase of sixty-five minutes, the seventeenth shell 
struck the compass stand and steering standard, with 
disastrous results, the vessel becoming unmanageable. 

When the crew had taken to the boats, the enemy com- 
mander came alongside and declared that he intended to 
sink even the lifeboats, because his order to stop had not 
been obeyed. At that moment Captain Robinson's dog 
fell overboard, and instinctively he jumped into the water 
to save it. He was clinging to the rails of the submarine, 
when the German commander exclaimed with surprise, 
"You jump overboard to save a dog!" The master 
made no reply, but the commander, evidently moved 
at Captain Robinson's affection for his dog, announced 
that the boats could proceed. That there was a limit 
to the enemy's consideration was, however, proved a 
short time afterwards when the Inglemoor (master, 
Mr. A. W. Stonehouse) appeared on the scene. Captain 
Stonehouse, noticing the two boats full of men with 
a submarine near-bv, decided to rescue the distressed 
mariners ; he hoped that the enemy would, in the circum- 
stances, spare his own vessel. He was, however, to be 
disappointed. He was compelled to abandon the Ingle- 
moor under heavy fire. He reminded the enemy com- 
mander that the crews of the two vessels amounted to 
about one hundred men, and asked permission for them 
to go on board the motor-barge he had been towing. The 
request was granted. The submarine then torpedoed 
the Inglemoor and nothing more was seen of her. Jury- 
sails were rigged on the barge, the master and men of the 
Caucasian were picked up, and later on the motor engine 
was started. These companions in misfortune fortunately 
fell in with a patrol-vessel soon after noon and were even- 
tually taken in to Penzance, thankful that they had fared 
no worse than they had done. Captain Robinson was 
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. 

In one day upwards of 23,000 tons of shipping had been 
sunk, but fortunately the enemy was unable to maintain 


this high standard of destruction during the remainder 
of the month, which closed with a total loss of less than 
49,000 tons owing to the submarine campaign. On July 
3rd only two ships, the Renfrew (3,488 tons) and the 
Larchmore (4,355 tons), were captured, both of them being 
sunk by gunfire off the Wolf Rock, an area which had 
already yielded the enemy so many prizes. The master 
of the latter ship (Mr. Isaac Jones) afterwards put on 
record a succinct, but none the less eloquent, account of 
his experiences. In the early morning he heard two muffled 
reports to the east-south-east, apparently some distance 
away. Shortly afterwards two destroyers crossed his bow 
going full speed towards the firing, and the Larchmore 
forthwith hoisted her colours. This dramatic incident 
occurred at 5.30 in the morning, and suggested that U39, 
which had already done so much injury, was being hotly 
pursued. The Larchmore proceeded on her voyage, the 
course of events suggesting that immediate danger of an 
attack was over. Shortly after seven o'clock, however, the 
submarine appeared again, half submerged, two to two and 
a half miles away. She at once rose to the surface and 
opened fire. A rapid succession of shots fell on the mer- 
chant ship, and Captain Jones was thrown down by the 
concussion, injuring his knee. For a quarter of an hour 
the firing was vigorously maintained as the submarine 
drew in towards the doomed vessel. One shell killed the 
donkeyman, and the ship was holed in several places. 
Escape was impossible, so the crew took to the boats, 
shells falling round them as they sought this miserable 
means of safety. The submarine afterwards approached 
the boats where the dying donkeyman lay, and Captain 
Jones was cross-examined. This minor ordeal was soon 
over, and the submarine resumed firing into the merchant 
vessel. He was busily engaged in this task when a cruiser 
appeared on the horizon. Assistance had come too late 
to save the ship, but at least the crew were assured of their 
own safety. Captain Isaac Jones, who was mentioned in 
despatches, was, in company with the other survivors, 
afterwards landed at Falmouth, together with the master 
(Mr. J. F. Stevenson) of the Renfrew, which had also 
been submitted to a heavy bombardment because the 
master had refused to capitulate at the first signal which 
U39 had made. Two other ships, the Arabia (7,933 tons) 


and the Guido (2,093 tons), were also chased on this day, 
but managed to escape. 

Only two ships were attacked on July 4th, and one of 
these, the little sailing-vessel Sunbeam (132 tons), was 
captured off Wick. A conspicuous vindication of the 
resourcefulness and high courage of British merchant 
seamen was supplied by the officers and men of the Anglo- 
Californian (7,333 tons). At 8.30 a.m. this vessel, on 
passage from Montreal with a large number of horses, was 
about ninety miles south of Queenstown when an enemy 
submarine was sighted breaking surface on the port beam 
about three miles away. The master (Mr. Frederick 
Parslow) immediately realised the imminent danger which 
confronted him. Every effort was made to increase speed, 
and the ship was manoeuvred so as to bring the enemy 
astern. An S.O.S. signal was sent out, and to the relief 
of everyone on board was at once answered by a British 
man-of-war. For half an hour the submarine continued 
to chase the Anglo-Calif ornian, gaining on her rapidly. 
At last the enemy came within firing distance, and then 
for an hour and a half, while the merchantman zigzagged 
backwards and forwards to confuse the aim of the enemy, 
a steady fire was maintained. The British vessel was 
frequently hit, and in order to save life Captain Parslow 
decided to obey the signal to abandon ship. The engines 
were stopped and the boats manned : the port after- 
lifeboat was successfully lowered, but one of the falls of 
the starboard boat was struck by a shell, with the result 
that the boat fell aM'ay and capsized. The submarine at 
last ceased firing and then closed. Captain Parslow's 
courage in maintaining the chase had not, however, been 
fruitless, for at this juncture an armed ship, the Princess 
Ena, which had been slowly overhauling the submarine, 
opened fire at 9,000 yards, to the consternation of the 
enemy. The shot fell short, but a wireless message from 
a destroyer " to hold on " gave Captain Parslow fresh 
courage. The course of events seemed to be favouring 
him, so the firemen who were in the boat still on the davits 
were ordered to go once more below, and orders were given 
for the ship to get under way. The men responded with 
fine spirit to the master's orders. The submarine, fearing 
that after all the ship might escape, opened fire at close 
range on the bridge and boats, rifles as well as the vessel's 


guns being brought into use. Captain Parslow and his 
men were without any means of defence. In a few 
moments the upper bridge had been wrecked and the master 
killed ; the steering wheel and compass had been damaged 
and one of the port davits smashed, causing a boat to 
drop into the sea, together with all its occupants. The 
chief officer again ordered the ship to be abandoned, the 
firemen came up from below, and the remaining boats 
were manned and lowered. The outlook seemed black 
when suddenly the destroyers Mentor and Miranda 
steamed up. The submarine, counting discretion the 
better part of valour, dived out of sight. The Anglo- 
Californian then proceeded under escort to Queenstown, 
which was reached in safety. 

Captain Parslow had succeeded in saving his ship, but 
at the sacrifice of his own life, and twenty members of his 
crew were also killed, seven others being wounded. Every- 
one on board, from the master downward, had exhibited 
pluck and coolness, as well as seamanlike competency, in 
the emergency. Frederick Parslow, the son of the master, 
had remained on the upper bridge with his father through- 
out the action, steering the ship. By little short of a 
miracle, he was unwounded, although one of the spokes 
of the wheel was blown away and the bridge was riddled. 
Under the unnerving circumstances which confronted him 
down below, the chief engineer (who, with Mr. Frederick 
Parslow, afterwards received the Distinguished Service 
Cross) maintained discipline. Throughout the fierce 
fusillade the wireless telegraph operator stuck to his post 
on the lower bridge, sending and receiving accurately a 
number of messages. A veterinary surgeon (Mr. F. Neal), 
who was in charge of the 900 horses on board, not only 
rendered aid to the animals, of which twenty were killed, 
but under heavy fire attended to wounded members of 
the crew. The chief officer (Mr. H. O. Read), who in the 
later phase of the action, after the death of the master, 
acquitted himself well, was, in common with the second 
engineer (Mr. H. F. Suddes) and the wireless operator, 
awarded a mention in despatches. As long as the memory 
of these early days of the submarine campaign persists, 
the story of the unequal fight put up by the unarmed 
Anglo-Calif or nian under her heroic captain will be retold 
as an epic of the war by sea. 


That the Germans had lost respect for the common 
humanities to which civihsed seamen of all nationalities, 
not excluding avowed pirates of earlier days, had always 
paid respect, was shown by the circumstances in which 
the Meadowfield (2,750 tons) was destroyed on July 9th. 
The four preceding days had been disappointing for the 
enemy. On the 5th, on the 6th, and on the 7th not a single 
vessel had been captured. Aircraft had unsuccessfully 
attacked the Groningen (988 tons) four miles off the Gal- 
loper, but the bombs had missed their objective and she 
had escaped unscathed. The 8th was also a poor one 
for the Germans, for only one ship, the Guido (2,093 
tons), was torpedoed off Rattray Head. The Traquair 
(1,067 tons) was chased on the same day near Knock Deep, 
but her speed enabled her to escape. The submarine 
commanders must have known that the German Admiralty 
were anxiously looking for better results than were being 
achieved, and it may be that irritation under failure 
accounted for the callousness exhibited by the submarine 
which fell in with the Meadowfield on the afternoon of 
July 9th. She was a Glasgow vessel and was carrying 
copper ore from Huelva. She had started on her voyage 
on July 3rd, and was fifty miles south-west of the Tuskar 
when the master (Mr. Thomas Dunbar) heard the sound of 
a shot. He took up his glasses to ascertain whence it 
had come. Just as he had picked up the outline of a 
submarine on the port quarter, another shot was fired 
which wrecked the chart-room under the bridge as well as 
the wheel-house, killing Neil McLean, who was at the wheel. 
Captain Dunbar immediately ordered the engines to be 
stopped. In addition to his crew he was carrying five 
passengers, including two ladies and two children, and 
he could not put their lives in added danger by resistance. 
He had confidence that if the Germans realised that the 
Meadowfield had on board children as well as women they 
would at least cease firing while the boats were lowered. 
So the two children were held up and must have been seen 
by two of the officers of the submarine who were watching 
all that was happening on board the vessel through their 
glasses. That they had no mercy was proved by the fact 
that the shelling of the merchant-ship still continued. In 
a statement which he subsequently made on oath, Captain 
Dunbar recorded subsequent events : 


" Deponent ordered the boats out, and the mate and 
fourteen hands got into the port boat and deponent and 
the remainder of those on board, who included two lady- 
passengers, one male passenger, and two children, got into 
the second boat, which was the starboard lifeboat. As 
the port boat was being lowered the submarine ceased 
firing, but as soon as she got clear recommenced, and con- 
tinued firing during the time deponent's boat was being 
lowered and got away." 

Thus Captain Dunbar found himself in charge of two 
heavily laden boats, which included among their freights 
two women and two children, forty-two miles from the 
nearest land. The submarine continued to shell the 
Meadowfield until she sank, and then disappeared. For- 
tunately at 9 o'clock that night the two boats were seen 
by the Grimsby trawler Majestic, and Captain Dunbar 
and his companions were safely landed at Holyhead 
shortly after midnight. That the sinking of the Meadow- 
field resulted in the loss of only one hfe was due to no 
consideration on the part of the Germans. 

On the same day the Ellesmere (1,170 tons) was torpedoed 
forty-eight miles from the Smalls, apparently by the same 
submarine. The master (Mr. C. W. Heslop) was on passage 
to Liverpool when the enemy was sighted two miles on the 
starboard bow. Captain Heslop brought the submarine 
astern of him and then the shells began to fall. The 
second one carried away the after davit of the starboard 
lifeboat. Four other shells afterwards struck the ship, 
but still the master hoped against hope that he might 
save his ship. With shells falling around him, he still 
held on his course. At last a shell passed through the 
bridge deck, killing one man and shattering the left arm 
of another. The firemen down below were in no mood to 
continue the unequal struggle, and, as there was no place 
from which to navigate the vessel, the master ordered the 
Red Ensign to be lowered in token of surrender. A few 
minutes later, after the crew had got away, the Ellesmere 
was torpedoed. Captain Heslop, who was subsequently 
" mentioned " for his spirited conduct, had made a plucky 
effort to save his ship, and in his sworn statement after he 
and his companions had been rescued by the armed 
trawler Osprey II, he declared that the casualty " might 


have been avoided by having a gun and a gun's crew on 
board the Ellesmere.^' That was the cry of many ships' 
masters at this period, but new armies were being raised 
and equipped and required all the armament which the 
country could provide. 

These were the only two vessels which were sunk on 
July 9th ; two other ships were attacked, but effected their 
escape. The Pacific Steam Navigation Company's Orduna 
(15,499 tons) was molested by gunfire and torpedo off 
Queenstown ; the gunfire was ineffective, and the torpedo 
missed the target. For the second time the master (T. M. 
Taylor) could congratulate himself on the skilful and 
successful handling of the great liner he commanded, for 
on the 28th of the previous month he had been chased 
off the Smalls. Another vessel which was also brought 
safely into port on July 9th was the Leyland liner Etonian 
(6,438 tons), which, having eluded the enemy near Queens- 
town on May 7th, was again chased by a submarine off 
the south of Ireland. Competent use of her high speed 
saved her from destruction. 

The master (J. C. Murray) of the Winlaton (3,270 tons) 
showed on Jul}^ 10th how even a slow ship handled with 
determination could worst the enemj^ The afternoon was 
far spent when a submarine was seen steaming hard towards 
the merchantman with the evident intention of cutting 
her off. The Winlaton had little speed, and her master 
dismissed the idea of a chase. He decided that his only 
course was to steer straight for the enemy. This he pro- 
ceeded to do, to the evident surprise of the officers of the 
submarine. The Germans watched the merchantman for 
some time, and when she was about a mile away from them 
they put the nose of the submarine down and were soon 
out of sight. Twenty minutes later the submarine again 
appeared on the surface, well astern of the Winlaton, but 
after a short interval steamed slowly away. This was 
the first instance reported to the Admiralty of a slow ship 
sighting a submarine at a distance and by steering straight 
for her causing her to dive and decline action. In recogni- 
tion of his initiative and courage, Captain Murray was 
given a commission as a Lieutenant, R.N.R. and a " men- 

During the remainder of the month, though thirteen 
ships were chased by submarines, only six of them were 


destroyed, and of these but two — the Grangewood (3,422 
tons) and the Iberian (5,223 tons) — exceeded 2,000 tons. 
The master of the last-named ship (Mr. Thomas B. Jago) 
attempted to get away. Circumstances seemed to favour 
him, for the submarine was about seven miles distant when 
first sighted in a position over seventy miles south of the 
Fastnet. He had under his orders a well-found ship with 
a turn for speed, and when he gave orders for a full head 
of steam he received excellent support from the engine- 
room. The enemy, however, had evidently noticed that 
the Iberian was unarmed, and he had no hesitation, there- 
fore, in attempting to overhaul her. As he gained upon 
the merchantman, shells began to fall, and one of them 
pierced the deck and decapitated four men besides wound- 
ing several others. The next shell struck in the same 
place and blew one man to pieces. Captain Jago realised 
that he could not expose his crew to further risk of death, 
and accordingly he ordered the ship to be stopped. Leav- 
ing behind the bodies of the four men who had been killed, 
but taking with them the eight wounded, the officers and 
remaining men manned the boats and were soon clear of 
the doomed vessel. The submarine then closed in and 
discharged a torpedo into the Iberian. The commander, 
having reproached Captain Jago with running away, 
provided bandages and lint for the wounded, and then, 
having discharged another torpedo into the port side of 
the merchantman, disappeared. "Had I had a gun," the 
master afterwards recorded, " I would have sunk the 
submarine and certainly the Iberian would have escaped." 
Late that night the boats attracted the attention of a 
steamer, which took the exhausted officers and men on 
board. Before Queenstown was reached two of the 
wounded seamen died. Captain Jago was " mentioned " 
for his service. 

During the remaining days of the month sixteen more 
lives were lost, four on board the Firth (406 tons), which 
was sunk near Aldeburgh Napes buoy, and eleven in the 
Mangara (1,821 tons), which was destroyed near Sizewell 
buoy, Aldeburgh. Both vessels were torpedoed without 
warning. The other casualty occurred in the Turquoise 
(486 tons). This ship, together with the Nugget (405 
tons), was captured and sunk by gunfire off the Scillies. 
The month of July closed with the loss of twenty ships, 


of 52,847 tons, the African Monarch (4,003 tons) having 
been blown up by a mine on the 6th of the month at the 
entrance of the White Sea and two men killed. Nineteen 
other ships, of 88,886 tons, had been molested or damaged, 
including two which struck mines and the one, already 
mentioned, which had been attacked by aircraft. The 
deaths reached a total of fifty-nine. 

During August enemy submarines made a determined 
attempt to justify the high hopes which the Germans had 
entertained when they determined to employ submarines, 
as well as mines, in attacking ocean-borne trade. Before 
the month closed forty-nine vessels of the British Mercan- 
tile Marine, of 147,122 tons, had been sunk with a loss of 
no fewer than 248 lives. Twenty-one other ships had 
escaped, but nevertheless the toll exacted of men and ships 
was a heavy one. So far as tonnage is concerned, it was 
indeed the most successful month the Germans had 
hitherto experienced, and it was apparent that exceptional 
efforts were being made to support public confidence 
throughout Germany in the ultimate victory of the Central 
Powers as the result of the campaign. Although seven 
ships disappeared after striking mines, the great bulk of 
the tonnage fell to the submarine. August 1915 was in- 
deed a black month for British shipowners and British 

On August 1st the Clintonia (3,830 tons), after a 
spirited defence by her master (Mr. Geoffrey Donnelly) 
under a heavy fire, was sunk thirty miles from Ushant ; 
five Europeans and five Lascars were drowned owing to 
the capsizing of a ship's boat, and a number of men were 
wounded during the running fire which the submarine 
maintained before Captain Donnelly ordered his engines 
to be stopped. 

On the same day three more casualties from drowning 
occurred when the Banza (2,320 tons) was overtaken 
off Ushant by U68. After the ship had been abandoned 
and had disappeared beneath the waves and the sub- 
marine had gone away, the shipless crew hoisted sail. 
One of the boats capsized ; she was righted with diffi- 
culty, but was still waterlogged and the sails had been 
lost. About an hour later she again capsized and was 
once more righted. For six hours the unfortunate seamen, 
when they were not fighting for life in the water, were 


sitting in the boat with the water covering them up to the 
chest. One fireman became dehrious and fell to the 
bottom of the boat and was drowned before he could be 
picked up. His body was quietly lowered over the side. 
Fortunately, during the evening of this tragic Sunday a 
French fishing-boat rescued the twelve survivors. The 
other boat of the Ranza was picked up by a Dutch vessel. 

During the succeeding days of August the losses of 
tonnage continued to mount up, many useful vessels of 
considerable tonnage being destroyed. On the 3rd inst. 
the Costello (1,591 tons) was sunk by gunfire ninety-five 
miles W. by S. from Bishop Rock, with a loss of one life ; 
two men were killed in the Glenhy (2,196 tons) thirty miles 
N. from the Smalls ; two seamen were killed in the Dunsley 
(4,930 tons), which was sunk off the Old Head of Kinsale ; 
and then occurred one of the outstanding crimes of the 
submarine campaign when the White Star Company's 
liner Arabic (15,801 tons) was sunk by U24. The enemy 
craft had bombarded the naphtha tanks near Harrington 
on August 16th, and then, proceeding by way of the St. 
George's Channel, had reached a position where the 
Atlantic traffic was thick. The Arabic had left Liverpool 
early in the afternoon of August 18th with 137 cabin 
passengers and forty-nine third-class passengers, of whom 
many were of neutral nationality. They included twenty- 
six Americans, as well as French, Russians, Belgians, Swiss 
and Spanish travellers, with a German who possessed a 
Home Office permit. The crew numbered 248. As the 
vessel was outward bound to the United States, there was 
no possibility that she carried ammunition. All the boats 
were fully equipped and carried compasses, oilbags, oil 
lamps, sea anchors, and matches, and were in a thoroughly 
seaworthy condition. The boats were carried inboard 
on their chocks, and all rafts and patent boats were un- 
lashed and ready to float off. Six hundred lifebelts had 
been placed about the decks, fore and aft, so as to be handy 
in case of an emergency. The watertight doors had been 
closed, as wtII as the doors of the shaft tunnel, and the 
lower deck ports had been secured. Every precaution 
had, in fact, been taken to secure the safety of the ship 
and all on board. 

About 9 o'clock on the following morning, when the 
vessel was about fifty miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, 


a steamer was sighted five miles away on the starboard 
bow. The Arabic was zigzagging, in view of the general 
peril to which British ships were exposed in these 
waters, and the general direction of her course gradually 
brought her nearer to what was evidently a British mer- 
chant ship, which was stopped. It was noticed that two 
boats under sail, full of men, were making towards the 
land, which was, of course, out of sight. Observers on 
board the Arabic saw that the steamer was well down by 
the head, and realised at once that she had been torpedoed 
by the enemy. This vessel was the Dunsley of London, 
which had been subjected to a heavy shelling for twenty 
minutes — two men being killed, as already stated, and six 
others injured before the master (Mr. P. L. Arkley) aban- 
doned hope of saving his ship. 

The chief officer and the second officer were on watch 
on the bridge of the Arabic when the sinking Dunsley 
came into sight. The master of the Arabic (Mr. W. Finch) 
concluded that the Dunsley had been torpedoed, so he 
altered course about three points to the southward, 
intending to keep well clear of the area in which a sub- 
marine might be lurking. For some time the liner con- 
tinued on her new course, still zigzagging, and a wireless 
message was promptly dispatched notifying the fate 
which had overtaken the Dunsley. No submarine, how- 
ever, was seen at this period either from the bridge or 
by the lookout men. The passengers and others who 
were watching the Dunsley sinking lower and lower in the 
water were hoping that after all the Arabic would escape 
molestation, when the ship was shaken from end to end 
by an explosion, the wireless-room being wrecked and the 
aerial carried away. The second officer (Mr. F. F. Steele) 
had just moved to the starboard end of the bridge when 
a line of air-bubbles on the starboard bow, about 100 
yards away, caught his attention. He instantly realised 
that a torpedo had been discharged at the liner, and he 
shouted to the master, " Here he is, sir. He has let go at 
us. Hard a-starboard ! " Captain Finch, who had also 
observed the menacing streak, at once gave orders for a 
full head of steam and the helm was put over. Everyone 
on board who was aware of the impending crisis anxiously 
waited to see if the ship would clear the torpedo. Doubt 
was quickly resolved, the vessel being struck aft, almost 


abreast of the jigger mast. The Arabic was doomed ; 
the second officer put the engine-room telegraph to " Stop " 
and then to " Full speed astern" so as to get way off her, 
and thus enable the boats to be launched. Captain Finch, 
noticing that the ship was beginning to list to port, ordered 
everyone to the boats, for there was no time to be lost. 

It is unnecessary to describe the scene on board when 
the passengers, who included a large number of women 
and children, realised that within a few minutes the 
Arabic would probably sink. The sequel showed that the 
ship had been well organised for an emergency ; while 
of the crew of 243, 21 lost their lives, only 18 passengers 
— 12 cabin and 6 steerage — were reported missing, so 
efficiently and quickly were the boats swung out, lowered, 
and filled. Seeing that the time which separated the 
impact of the torpedo and the sinking of the Arabic 
amounted to only eight minutes, it was due to no act of 
mercy on the part of the enemy that the death-roll was 
not far greater. Captain Finch remained on the bridge 
directing operations for the saving of life, and when the 
Arabic sank, having righted herself before she plunged 
stern first, he went down with her. A few seconds later 
he rose to the surface, to discover that his vessel had 
completely disappeared. A man of robust build, of about 
seventeen stone, he managed to cling to a raft from 
which, exhausted though he was, he swam to a boat. He 
helped a fireman into her and then picked up a woman 
and a baby before he himself sought this poor means of 
safety. After another fireman had been rescued, the whole 
of the little company transferred to a lifeboat which was 
near-by, and Captain Finch took command of all the craft 
which were afloat among the wreckage. Mr. Bowen, 
chief officer, and Mr. Oliver, first officer, had also re- 
mained in the ship until the last, Mr. Oliver diving over- 
board from the forward part of B Deck on the starboard 
side, while Mr. Bowen slid down the after fall of No. 1 
emergency boat, to be picked up by one of the boats 
already in the water. 

As soon as the engines had stopped, all hands left the 
stokehold except one man who was standing by the tele- 
graphs and a junior engineer (Mr. P. G. Logan). No 
purpose was to be served in remaining, so they too began 
to climb up to the deck. What happened to the fireman 


is uncertain, but Mr. Logan escaped and was afterwards 
able to give an account of his experiences. He left the 
engine-room on the port side of the deck below the main 
deck. Securing a lifebelt, he ran along the port alley- 
way. When he had advanced a short distance, the water 
met him and he threw the lifebelt away, as it impeded his 
progress. At last he was able to reach the companionway 
to the poop, which was already three feet under water. 
On the starboard side a boat, with about a dozen persons 
in it, was already afloat on the falls, indicating the rapidity 
with which the Arabic was sinking. Mr. Logan unhooked 
the forward fall and a quartermaster released the after 
fall. The boat was thus got clear of the vessel, which 
disappeared a few minutes later. Just as the Arabic was 
sinking, Mr. Logan saw a collapsible boat with six or seven 
persons in her, who were apparently unable to control her. 
As the boat was only ten or fifteen yards away, he took off 
his boots and boiler suit and swam towards her, and then 
took charge. With the aid of his companions, he pulled 
towards the wreckage and fourteen persons were rescued 
from the water. 

In the meantime Mr. Steele, the second officer, had 
taken charge of No. 11 boat, which was safely lowered 
with thirty-seven occupants. The first officer had found 
temporary safety in this overcrowded boat, but a 
few minutes later he transferred to another, while the 
third officer went to a collapsible boat which was 
near-by. Apparently a large proportion of the deaths 
were due to the capsizing of No. 16 boat. This craft was 
drawn by the suction of the water towards the rapidly 
sinking Arabic, which had assumed an almost perpendi- 
cular position. A davit caught the boat and smashed 
it into pieces. Forty-two or forty-three people were con- 
sequently thrown into the water. An able seaman 
managed to reach one of the rafts, with which the White 
Star Line had recently equipped the Arabic as well as other 
vessels under their control, and from this position of com- 
parative safety he effected a number of rescues. The 
carpenter of the Arabic, Norman MacAuley, was also 
responsible for saving a number of lives. As soon as the 
fate of the vessel was certain, he went to the saloon door 
on Deck C and assisted some ladies in putting on their 
lifebelts. He then plunged down to the after part of 


E Deck to investigate the damage which had been done 
there, but he was driven back by the flow of water. Going 
to the boat deck, he was able to give aid to a number of 
other lady passengers and subsequently returned to 
Deck C. He afterwards gave an account of his later 
experiences : 

" My boat station was No. 7. I helped people into No. 
7 boat and then, as there were plenty of hands there, 
I assisted others into No. 5 and No. 3 boats. The water 
was now coming over the stern, and C Deck was submerged 
for a considerable distance. No. 3 boat was filled up, and 
as no passengers were to be seen on deck, I took my place 
in this lifeboat and kept her clear of the ship's side as she 
was lowered. The boat reached the water safely. My 
boat picked up two other persons — one steward and one 
passenger — after the boat had sailed four times through 
the wreckage." 

These chance stories of the manner in which the Arabic, 
with her freight of 429 persons, was abandoned in the 
urgent emergency convey some conception of the fine spirit 
exhibited by officers and men, from Captain Finch down- 
wards, in their care of those confided to their charge. 
Fortunately the S.O.S. signal which had been sent out by 
the liner when the Dunsley was seen to be in distress was 
responded to quickly by patrol vessels, and all the sur- 
vivors, numbering 390, were landed at Queenstown. 

The remainder of the month yielded other incidents to 
show that nothing that had yet occurred by sea had 
broken the spirit of British merchant seamen. They 
would not admit defeat even when, unarmed themselves, 
they were confronted by a desperate enemy possessing 
gun and torpedo in association with power of submergence, 
enabling him to deal stealthy and mortal blows. Among 
the narratives of this period there stands out the case of 
the Eimstad (689 tons). A submarine hailed the ship 
off Cross Sand Light- vessel on August 17th, at the 
same time opening fire with both guns. None of the 
eleven shells hit the Eimstad. Then a torpedo was fired, 
which missed. In the meantime the master (Mr. F. A. 
Holder) had all lights doused, himself cutting the steam- 
light halyards. An attempt to ram the submarine failed. 


but the spirit which was exhibited eventually caused the 
enemy to abandon the contest and he disappeared. Cap- 
tain Holder was " mentioned " for saving his ship. An- 
other conspicuous case of resistance was that of the Dioined 
(4,672 tons), belonging to Messrs. Alfred Holt & Co. This 
ship (master, Mr. J. Myles) was outward bound from Liver- 
pool to Shanghai. She carried a crew of fifty-three hands, 
and had on board a mixed cargo of about 8,000 tons. 
At 11 o'clock on the morning of August 22nd the Diomed 
was about fifty-seven miles W.N.W. from the Scillies 
— an area in which very heavy losses were sustained during 
this month— when a submarine was observed. Captain 
Myles was on the bridge with the chief officer, and as the 
Diomed could steam at about 13| knots and the enemy 
was distant at least six miles, he determined to make a 
fight for his vessel and all that she carried. So the helm 
was ported and very soon the submarine was lost to sight. 

It looked as though the Diomed would escape. But 
after she had run for a considerable time in a westerly 
direction, a submarine — whether the same one as had 
been first sighted or another is uncertain — was observed on 
the port beam. The distance was again estimated at 
about six miles. Once more the helm was ported in order 
to bring the submarine astern. These incidents occupied 
three-quarters of an hour, and the immunity they had 
hitherto rewarded his efforts gave Captain Myles fresh 
confidence. But at last the enemy lessened the distance 
separating her from the merchantman and opened fire. 
The range was about three miles. For over two hours 
the chase had been in progress when the shot began to 
break up the stern of the ship ; fire was then concentrated 
on the fore part of the vessel, and then it was directed 
against the bridge. The enemy had made no signal and 
was flying no flag. The first victim was the third steward, 
who was killed while standing on the fore part of the ship. 
Shortly after two o'clock Captain Myles was mortally 
wounded as well as the quartermaster, while the chief 
officer (Mr. F. A. McGowan Richardson), on whom the 
command had now devolved, was himself seriously injured. 

By this time the position of the Diomed had become 
hopeless, and the chief officer ordered the vessel to be 
abandoned. Two boats on the port side had been 
reduced to matchwood by the shell- fire, and of the two 


boats on the starboard side one had been holed. This 
damage was unfortunately not observed until the boat 
had been lowered into the water with twenty men in her, 
when she rapidly filled and capsized. Mr. John Rennie, 
the second mate, took charge of the uninjured starboard 
boat, but an internal explosion in the engine-room of the 
Diomed resulted in a quantity of water being shipped. In 
these circumstances the prospect of any of the officers 
and men being saved seemed slight. 

The Germans on board the attacking submarine 
evinced no interest in their fate. The damaged star- 
board boat had capsized, and the unfortunate men 
who had been in her were left to the mercy of the 
waves. Mr. Rennie, fully realising his responsibility, 
succeeded in getting his boat baled out, and then the 
men in the water were picked up. Those who were 
clinging to the capsized boat had to be left for the 
time being, as Mr. Rennie, with thirty-four men in his 
charge, could do nothing for them. He had hopes of 
getting out the gig before the Diomed sank, and with this 
intention drew in towards the doomed vessel. The sub- 
marine had apparently disappeared, but as soon as Mr. 
Rennie approached the Diomed, the enemy reappeared on 
the surface and made towards him, compelling him to 
abandon his purpose. In the circumstances nothing 
more could be done, and a few minutes later the Diomed 
disappeared beneath the waves. Mr. Rennie in his heavily 
laden boat then headed for the Irish coast. At about 
six o'clock he fell in with a destroyer, which promptly 
returned to the spot where the Diomed had been sunk and 
picked up the survivors on the capsized starboard boat. 
In the deposition which he subsequently made Mr. Rennie 
stated that the " submarine rendered no assistance. The 
Commander looked at the men in the water and shook his 
fist at me, saying something in German." The splendid 
resistance which Captain Myles and his officers and men 
had made in the effort to save their ship was highly com- 
mended by the Admiralty, and the Distinguished Service 
Cross was conferred on the chief officer. The toll of life 
lost was ten, the master and two others being killed by 
the shell-fire and seven being drowned through the cap- 
sizing of the starboard lifeboat, which the enemy's shell-fire 
had rendered unseaworthy. 

II — 4 


Three other incidents find place in the record of this 
month, and they all occurred on August 21st at the 
entrance to the Channel. The Cober (3,060 tons) and the 
Ruel (4,029 tons) were sunk, but the other vessel, the 
San Melito (10,160 tons), was rescued. The master (Mr, 
John J. Peterfield) of the former put up a plucky fight on 
this summer day. He came across a submarine when 
forty-five miles S.S.W. from the Scillies. He promptly 
brought her astern of him and a chase lasting an hour 
ensued, during which the enemy maintained an inter- 
mittent fire of high-explosive shells. At last the poop 
was struck and considerable damage was done. Some of 
the men of the Cober, without waiting for orders, rushed 
the boats and tried to lower one of them, with the result 
that several of them were thrown into the water. Captain 
Peterfield still continued on his course, ordering the cliief 
officer to endeavour, in another boat, to rescue the men who 
were fighting for life about two miles off. In this he 
succeeded against heavy odds. All hope of saving the 
Cober had been abandoned, and Captain Peterfield, bowing 
before the inevitable, at last prepared to abandon his ship. 
The submarine had submerged, and as he left the ship at 
1.20 p.m. a torpedo struck the Cober on the port side, and 
in a short time she sunk. Fortunately for Captain Peter- 
field, who was " mentioned " for his conduct, as well as 
for his companions, they were soon afterwards picked up 
by the Dutch steamer Monnikeandam and were landed 
at Falmouth. 

The Cober was a slow ship, but the San Melito 
(master, Mr. James D. Jackson) was one of the Eagle Oil 
Transport fleet with a turn for speed. She was seventy 
miles S.W. from the Lizard when a submarine appeared. 
Captain Jackson manoeuvred his ship to bring the enemy 
astern at 2.50 p.m., and in the meantime ordered full 
speed. An official record of subsequent events is to the 
following effect : 

" The San Melito was struck on the starboard side by 
a shell, the concussion stunning the master, and at the 
same time the quartermaster left the wheel, which was 
taken by the chief officer (Mr. W. Piper) for the remainder 
of the action. The submarine continued to chase and 
shell the San Melito until about 3.30 p.m., doing slight 


damage to the ship, but causing no casualties among the 
crew. Patrol craft then appearing about five miles off, 
the submarine dived and disappeared." 

In these circumstances, owing to the courage and deter- 
mination of Captain Jackson and his officers and men, the 
San Melito was saved. Captain Jackson, the chief officer, 
and the chief engineer (Mr. W. Morralee) were mentioned 
in despatches, and Captain Jackson was also given a com- 
mission as Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. 

The officers and men of the Ruel were singled out for 
a demonstration by the enemy of the brutal methods he 
was prepared to adopt in the hope of breaking the spirit 
of the British merchant seaman. This ship left Gibraltar 
on August 16th for Barry Roads, in ballast, and on the 
afternoon of August 21st a submarine appeared on the 
starboard quarter and opened fire at a range of about three 
miles. The master (Mr. Henry Story) altered his ship's 
course to westward and, raising all steam, which gave him 
a speed of 8j knots, managed to keep the submarine 
astern of him. A chase ensued which lasted for one and 
a half hours, when a shell passed through the RueVs stern, 
another bursting over the bridge. By this time the enemy 
was only a mile away, and the crew of the Ruel took to 
the two boats. The submarine then closed in and fired 
six effective shots. The enemy had killed one man, a 
steward, and had wounded eight others, but he was still 
unsatisfied and proceeded to fire on the boats, the sub- 
marine commander picking men off with his revolver. 
Captain Story, the second officer (Mr. W. J. Stenhouse), 
and Lieutenant D. Blair, R.N.R., subsequently made a 
statement on oath to the effect that " when in the act of 
abandoning the steamer Ruel in a sinking condition due 
to attack by a German submarine, we were fired on while 
alongside and pulling away from the above vessel, the 
wounds of those injured showing that both shrapnel and 
rifle bullets were used." They added that " the submarine 
was distant about 150 yards, and close enough for the crew 
to observe that we and the remainder of the crew of the 
steamer Ruel were abandoning the ship and had given up 
any further attempts to escape." The Ruel sank forty- 
five miles S.W. from Bishop Rock, and the survivors were 
fortunate in that as she disappeared the armed trawler 


Dewsland appeared upon the scene, accompanied by the 
drifter Campania. These two craft, though they arrived 
too late to save the Ruel from destruction, drove off the 
submarine and rescued Captain Story and his companions, 
who were landed, without further incident, at St. Mar, in 
the Scillies. 

For reasons which were afterwards to be revealed, the 
losses from submarine attack both of ships and men 
during September were far less heavy than in the preceding 
month. The number of ships — eight, of 11,997 tons — 
blown up was, however, the highest hitherto recorded, 
suggesting that the enemy had been devoting increased 
attention to the laying of minefields. In all seventy-seven 
men were killed and the thirty ships which were sunk were 
of 101,690 tons. A further indication of a temporary lull 
in the submarine campaign in the waters surrounding the 
British Isles was furnished by the small number of ships 
which were molested by the enemy but succeeded in making 
their escape. 

Twenty-seven vessels were interfered with by sub- 
marines, and their records furnish a number of illus- 
trations of the spirit exhibited by officers and men in the 
unequal contest. The master (Mr. Henry John) of the 
Whitefield (2,422 tons) made a spirited effort, under a 
running fire, to elude capture off Cape Wrath, on the 
north-west coast of Scotland, on September 1st, while on 
his way from Archangel to Nice. On the following day 
the Roumanie (2,599 tons), also outward bound from 
Archangel, was captured and destroyed by bombs off St. 
Kilda. Although the Churston (2,470 tons) was mined 
off Orfordness, four men being killed, on September 3rd, 
the British Mercantile Marine suffered no other loss on 
that day. Within twenty-four hours, however, enemy 
submarines had obtained full compensation for this failure ; 
three large ships met their end off the Fastnet, the Cymbe- 
line (4,505 tons), the Mimosa (3,466 tons), and the Allan 
liner Hesperian (10,920 tons). 

In the case of the first ship six lives out of a total crew 
of thirty-seven were lost owing to the action of the 
enemy commander. He had kept the vessel under fire for 
about half an hour, and then as the crew were leaving the 
ship a torpedo was discharged which hit the vessel amid- 
ship on the port side under the bridge. One of the boats 


was smashed by the explosion and six men were killed, 
the remainder being fortunately picked up by the other 
boat. For sixteen hours the survivors were buffeted 
about by the waves, wondering whether they would ever 
see land again. Five of their number had been injured by 
the explosion, one of them seriously. The submarine had 
made off as soon as it was certain that the Cymbeline could 
not survive. By a happy chance these distressed mariners 
in sad plight were observed by the Swedish barque Alhatros, 
and at last they reached Brandon Quay. One incident 
of interest marked the destruction of the Mimosa, one of 
the vessels of the Anglo-American Oil Company. When 
the master (Mr. T. N. Hugo) had taken to the boats, 
the commander of the submarine, apparently feeling some 
pity for his victims, cast adrift 137 miles S.W. by W. from 
the Fastnet, told Captain Hugo that he would tell the 
first trawler he saw to pick them up. 

The sinking of the Hesperian, a great passenger liner 
with over 600 persons on board, again attracted attention 
to the callous inhumanity with which the campaign was 
being conducted by the enemy. Only a few days before 
Count Bernsdorff, the German Ambassador, had assured 
the United States Government that " passenger liners 
will not be sunk without warning and without insuring the 
safety of the non-combatants aboard providing that the 
liners do not try to escape or offer resistance." The 
Hesperian was nevertheless sunk. She was outward bound 
from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal, with a general 
cargo, and carried about 300 passengers. There was no 
suspicion, therefore, that she had on board either munitions 
or troops, but nevertheless she was torpedoed without 
warning. It was a fortunate circumstance, and to the 
credit of her owners, that she had sufficient lifeboat accom- 
modation for more than three times as many persons as 
were on board, and that there was a liberal supply of life- 
buoys and lifebelts, otherwise the death-roll would have 
been far heavier than it was. 

The vessel was going at full speed, zigzagging on her 
course, when she was struck. That the subsequent 
explosion was due to a torpedo and not to a mine was 
proved by fragments of the missile which were secured by 
the master (Mr. W. S. Main) and by members of his crew. 
The attack on the Hesperian was therefore a flagrant viola- 


tion of the pledge which the enemy had so recently given 
to the United States. The impact of the torpedo and the 
explosion which followed stopped the vessel, and Captain 
Main sounded the boats-station signal on the steam 
whistle and ordered the chief officer to get the passengers 
into the boats. Of the 314 passengers a large number 
were women and children, and the order went forth, 
" Women and children first," the crew being instructed 
to stand by their stations. The ship, after shivering fore 
and aft under the impact, had listed ten degrees to the 
starboard and sank by the head. A column of water and 
debris was thrown up into the air a distance of about 
100 feet and fell on to the deck and bridge. The hatches 
on No. 2 deck were blown up and considerable damage 
was done to the second cabin and bridge decks. For- 
tunately none of the boats had been damaged or their 
fittings injured, and, in spite of the terrifying experience 
which had suddenly confronted them, the passengers 
evinced no signs of panic. They must have realised that 
they were in desperate straits, but nevertheless they 
remained cool and collected. The boats were filled and 
got away safely. The torpedo had been discharged at 
8.30 p.m., and within an hour the boats were clear of the 
vessel. After the attack had taken place. Captain Main 
had ordered an S.O.S. call to be sent out, and within a 
short time rescuing vessels were on the spot. 

The master afterwards mustered those who remained on 
board the Hesperian and found that, including himself, 
there were thirteen — three officers, three engineers, two 
Marconi operators, the boatswain, the carpenter, and 
two seamen. The night was far advanced, and the ship 
was very much down by the head. There seemed a 
chance, however, that she might be saved, and continued 
efforts were made to tow her into Queenstown from the 
early morning of September 5th onwards by the naval 
vessels which had responded to the signal. During the 
afternoon the liner became unmanageable ; time and again 
the towing ropes carried away, and then a southerly gale 
sprang up and high seas were encountered. Throughout 
the long day the master and his companions, reinforced 
by some of the crew who had returned to the Hesperian' s 
assistance, strove to save the injured vessel. As night 
came on the gale increased and the seas rose higher. The 


vessel was labouring heavily and the list had increased, 
suggesting that she was gradually sinking. Captain Main 
at last came to the conclusion that in the interests of the 
lives in his charge — over thirty officers and men who had 
stood by him on board in the emergency — it was his duty 
to order everyone to take to the lifeboats. He himself 
at last submitted to the inevitable and also took shelter 
on board H.M.S. Veronica. 

With searchhghts playing upon the Hesperian, the 
Veronica remained close to the doomed ship throughout 
the night of anxious watching. Early on the succeeding 
morning, although the gale at sea had not abated, Captain 
Main and ten of his crew again boarded the Hesperian. 
Their worst fears were confirmed ; the ship was rapidly 
sinking, and nothing could be done to save her. She went 
down at 7.47 a.m. on September 6th, within twelve minutes 
of the master passing over the side for the last time. The 
sinking of the Lusitania, with a loss of 1,198 lives, had 
shocked the conscience of the world ; the destruction of 
the Arabic had drawn from the United States a Note of 
protest to Germany; and now, in defiance of the pledge 
given by Count Bernsdorff, the Allan liner Hesperian 
had been attacked without warning eighty-five miles from 
the nearest point of land and thirty-two lives had been 
sacrificed. It was realised that the comparative smallness 
of the death-roll was due, not to any consideration on the 
part of the enemy submarine, but rather to the admirable 
construction of the ship, the life-saving appliances with 
which she had been provided by her owners, and the calm 
way in which officers and men, as well as the passengers, 
had behaved in the great hour of emergency. 

The spirit of desperation with which the Germans were 
conducting the submarine campaign was again illustrated 
when the loss of the Ashmore (2,519 tons) was reported. 
This was a well-found vessel of Aberdeen which had been 
chartered by the Belgian Relief Commission to bring a 
cargo of maize from Rosario to the distressed population 
of the country which the enemy had overrun in the early 
days of the war. Her voyage was uneventful as far as 
Dover, where the master (Mr. G. A. Noble) received 
instructions, on resuming his passage to Rotterdam, to 
keep on a line between Elbow buoy and the Kentish Knock 
Lightship. Captain Noble, having taken a pilot on board, 


put out from Dover at 5 a.m. on September 12th. Three 
and a half hours later, when the Ashmore was steaming 
between the Kentish Knock and the Galloper Lightship, 
the boatswain, who was on the after deck, noticed the track 
of a torpedo approaching the ship. Before he could give 
the alarm the vessel was struck. Nothing was seen of 
a submarine, but the naval authorities were satisfied that 
the ship had not struck a mine, but had been torpedoed 
without warning. 

The stricken Ashmore began at once to settle down 
after the explosion, which apparently had killed four 
men in the engine-room and stokehold. Captain Noble 
tried to go below to ascertain the fate of these men, 
but he found that the water had already risen to a height 
of about 20 feet, while steam was escaping from the boilers. 
Everything suggested that the four men had been killed 
outright. The majority of the crew were ordered away in 
the two lifeboats, but Captain Noble with the second 
officer, the carpenter, and steward remained on board. 
The master went in search of the ship's papers, but his 
cabin had been completely wrecked. The ship had taken 
a heavy list by this time, so at last Captain Noble and his 
companions passed over into one of the lifeboats which 
had been called alongside, and ten minutes later nothing 
was to be seen of the Ashmore. The crew were fortunate 
in being almost immediately afterwards rescued by mine- 
sweepers, and were soon afterwards landed at Chatham 
by a patrol-steamer to which they had been transferred. 

Three days later the Patagonia (6,011 tons) was also 
torpedoed without warning. She was on passage from 
Odessa to Nicolaieff in ballast, and within an hour 
and a half after leaving port she was struck aft. The 
second officer, who was on watch at the time, saw the 
torpedo approaching and instantly ordered the helm to 
be put hard aport. If it had not been for this prompt 
order the ship would have been hit amidships. The 
master (Mr. D. T. Davies) was well supported by his officers 
and crew in the emergency, with the result that no lives 
were lost. A similar immunity from casualties fortunately 
attended the destruction of three ships on September 
23rd off the Fastnet. At 8.30 a.m. the Anglo-Columhian 
(4,792 tons) was nearing the end of her voyage from Mon- 
treal to Avonmouth with a large number of horses when 


she was shelled by a submarine and eventually sunk. 
Early on the same afternoon the Chancellor (4,586 tons) 
shared the same fate in this locality, though the master 
(Mr. R. N. Donald) put on all speed in the attempt to 
escape. He was carrying a general cargo from Liverpool 
to New Orleans, and in view of the slowness of his own ship 
and the speed of the enemy his position from the first was 
almost hopeless. That evening the master (Mr. R. Steel) 
of the Hesione (3,663 tons) noticed a ship's lifeboat 
crowded with men evidently in distress. This proved to 
be a lifeboat of the Chancellor in charge of the chief officer 
(Mr. R. H. Herbert). Captain Steel's natural instinct was 
to bear down on the boat and rescue the men. This he 
did. He then reduced speed in order to effect the rescue. 
Mr. Herbert, warned by the fact that the submarine was 
still on the surface and conscious of the heavy price which 
might be exacted of the rescuing vessel, signalled to the 
Hesione to proceed. By this time Captain Steel had also 
sighted the submarine and realised the danger into which 
he had run by acting in accordance with the code of the 
brotherhood of the sea. He called down to the engine- 
room for all possible speed and thus brought the submarine 
right astern of him. A strong wind was blowing and the 
seas were running high, and try as they might the engine- 
room staff could not obtain more than 7 knots, whereas 
the Hesione was capable, under more favourable conditions, 
of 10^ knots. The submarine opened fire, but Captain 
Steel still held on his course. At length he realised that 
the contest was hopeless and he ordered the ship to stop. 
In a short time the crew had taken to the boats, and then 
the Hesione was sunk by gunfire. The firing had attracted 
patrol-vessels to the spot and both crews were rescued. 

With the sinking of the Urbino (6,651 tons) off the Bishop 
Rock on September 24th, the submarine campaign in the 
waters round the British Isles was suspended for the time 
being. The American protests which followed the sinking 
of the Arabic and the Hesperian were too serious to be 
ignored, and during the months of October and November 
not a single merchant ship was either molested or sunk, 
and it was not until the end of the first quarter of the fol- 
lowing year that merchant seamen in these areas were 
again confronted with this particular form of attack. 
The enemy had decided to shift the scene of his operations 


to other waters which promised to yield good results in 
association with less chances of becoming embroiled with 
the United States or of arousing other neutrals to com- 
bined action. The submarine campaign was forthwith 
transferred to the Mediterranean, in which few ships 
carrying American passengers were likely to be encountered. 

This decision represented the triumph, if only temporary 
triumph, of British merchant seamen. They had refused 
at Germany's dictation, and in spite of Germany's unprece- 
dented acts, to keep out of that part of the " war zone " 
which embraced the waters round the British Isles. If 
they had, cravenly, avoided the manifold perils of which 
they had had such ample evidence, the enemy would have 
encountered none of the difficulties which arose with 
neutrals, and particularly with the United States, and he 
would have won the war owing to the starvation of the 
people of the United Kingdom, and the cutting of the com- 
munications with the armies engaged in Belgium and 
France. But, owing to the dogged persistence of British 
merchant seamen, Germany's diplomatic troubles in- 
creased. On June 6th orders had been issued that no 
large passenger ship, whatever her flag, should be 
attacked. As we have seen, these instructions were not 
obeyed. Immediately after the sinking of the Arabic, 
Count Bernsdorff informed the United States Government 
— to the great indignation of the German naval authorities 
responsible for the operations at sea, but with the full 
approval of the Imperial Chancellor — that the submarine 
commander who had been responsible for that loss would 
be punished. The differences of opinion between the 
naval and civil elements in Germany were sharply accen- 
tuated by this action. On August 27th instructions were 
issued that no further submarines were to be sent to sea 
for attacking merchantmen until the diplomatic position 
had been cleared up. 

Three days later it w^as decided that until further 
notice no small passenger ships were to be sunk without 
warning and without steps being taken to rescue the crew. 
On the 1st of the following month the Naval Secretary 
telegraphed to the Chief of the Cabinet, for submission 
to the Emperor, that " this order could only be 
carried out at the utmost danger to the submarines, for 
which he could not be responsible." He asked per- 


mission to resign his office, but this was refused. On 
September 18th the decision was reached that the 
" general position necessitated that for the next few weeks 
all risks should be avoided of breaches of regulations laid 
down for the campaign." i Orders M^ere accordingly 
given to suspend all submarine activities of any sort on 
the west coast of the British Isles and in the English Chan- 
nel, and to carry on operations in the North Sea only in 
accordance with the ordinary prize regulations. 

1 My Memoirs, by Grand- Admiral von Tirpitz. 



Before the German Emperor's decision was reached to 
limit submarine operations, so as not to arouse further 
American opposition, the intensity of the enemy's attack 
on merchant shipping was imposing heavy burdens on 
the AuxiHary Patrol. During the month of August 1915 
shipping was being destroyed off Ushant, off the Norfolk 
coast, off the Scillies, off the south-west coast of Ireland, 
off St. Abb's Head, off the Lofoten Islands, and the Old 
Head of Kinsale, in the ^gean, off the Tuskar, in the Irish 
Sea and elsewhere. The campaign had assumed a threefold 
character. First, there was the steady submarine warfare 
going on in the North Sea and off the western coasts as 
a matter of almost established routine. Secondly, a con- 
centration was being made on what may be described as 
the south-western approaches, i.e. the track followed by 
shipping entering the English or Irish Channel from 
the Atlantic or Bay of Biscay. Finally, there were the 
episodic attacks by submarines on their way out from 
Germany to the Mediterranean, where, as will be seen 
later, the enemy was concentrating his forces. 

Everywhere the Auxiliary Patrol was working at its 
maximum efficiency. New plans were continually being 
tested in order to defeat the enemy. In the Irish Sea, 
for instance, three armed yachts, the Lady Blanche, 
Sabrina, and Bacchante, were patrolling between the Tuskar 
and Bardsey Island. Between the Tuskar and the Smalls 
nets were being towed by a long line of drifters, reinforced 
by half a dozen armed trawlers. Four other units of 
six trawlers were patrolling the area between Youghal- 
Tuskar-Bristol-Channel-Scillies, with the armed yacht 
Jeanette exercising a general supervision and the armed 
yacht Sapphire, patrolling between Minehead and Trevose 
Head, acting as a wireless link. A new Commander-in- 
Chief, Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, had been appointed 



to take charge of the Irish area. This officer, who had had 
experience both in the Grand Fleet and as President of the 
War College, went to Queenstown when the south-western 
approaches were becoming the principal area of the enemy's 
activity. His was a difficult task, made none the easier 
by the fact that his forces consisted only of a small flotilla 
of the newly built sloops (originally intended for mine- 
sweeping), in addition to trawlers, drifters, armed yachts 
and motor-boats. 

It is impossible to deal at length with every incident of 
the operations of the Auxiliary Patrol during this period, 
but it is essential to convey a correct appreciation of the 
character and extent of the German operations in home 
waters. The most experienced submarine officers were 
doing their utmost to support German confidence. U22 
left Borkum at the beginning of August and sank the 
armed merchant cruiser India off Westfjord, Norway, on 
August 8th. On August 4th U27 left for the Irish 
coast, but was sunk by the decoy ship Baralong on the 
19th. U38 also proceeded to the south-west approaches 
and within five days sank twenty-two cargo vessels, five 
trawlers, and three sailing-ships, chiefly by gunfire during 
thick weather. On August 4th U34 and U35 left Heligo- 
land for the Mediterranean with orders to wage war only 
as far as the latitude of the English Channel and then 
proceed without delay for Cattaro, which was reached on 
August 23rd. On August 5th U24 and U25 were also 
operating, the former proceeding round the north of 
Scotland and the west and south of Ireland, up the Irish 
Sea, sinking, as has been stated, the White Star liner 
Arabic. Before the end of the month U33 and U39 
were ordered to leave Germany for the Dardanelles, 
spreading destruction around them on passage. The 
former passed out of Borkum on August 28th, north about, 
sank a steamer off Cape Wrath, then came down the 
west coast of Ireland on September 4th and sank the 
Cymbeline off the Fastnet. On her southerly progress she 
also sank the Mimosa, the Storcsand, a Norwegian sailing- 
ship, and finally the John Hardie, ninety-eight miles W. 
by S. of Cape Finisterre on September 6th. She then 
continued her voyage without further incident, passed 
through the Gibraltar Straits and, having arrived in the 
Mediterranean, was sighted and attacked by H.M. Torpedo- 


Boat 95 six times on September 9th, when fifty miles 
west of Alboran island ; but she reached Cattaro on Sep- 
tember 16th, and then began to carry out the task for 
which she had been selected — the sinking of enemy shipping 
in the Mediterranean. Similarly U39 left Germany on 
August 27th, proceeded north about on September 2nd, 
attacked the sailing-ship William T. Lewis ninety-five miles 
west of the Fastnet, and then carried on for the Straits 
of Gibraltar without further adventure. Having entered 
the Mediterranean, this vessel was sighted on September 
8th about 130 miles east of Cartagena going south-east. 
She sank several more vessels, and reached Cattaro on 
September 13th. Such, then, was the new position at sea. 
The solution of the submarine problem had become more 
difficult than ever, apart from the increasing trouble due 
to mines ; off the south-east coast of England UC 1, 3, 
5, 6, and 7 were particularly busy mine-laying. 

In these new conditions the trawlers of the Auxiliary 
Patrol were leading a varied life. Some Portsmouth 
trawlers had to be used for escort work across the English 
Channel owing to the scarcity of destroyers ; off the 
Lowestoft coast other trawlers were employed in protecting 
the " War Channel," along which sixty merchant ships, 
on an average, daily passed escorted by these fishing-craft ; 
and wherever submarines were likely to operate, drifters 
laid their nets. Even when patrol-vessels returned to 
port, there was frequently no rest for them. On August 
10th, Just after midnight, a Zeppelin appeared over Dover 
harbour dropping bombs, one of which exploded on 
striking the water and damaged the armed trawler 
Equinox, then lying at anchor, hitting her in forty-three 
places. Three of her crew who were in their bunks asleep 
were wounded. Another armed trawler, the Cleon, not 
far off, was also damaged. 

The alertness of the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol made 
the submarine's life more exciting than comfortable. 
Owing to the enemy's superiority in speed on the surface 
and his more powerful guns, it often enough happened that 
the submarine escaped ; but if the trawler or yacht could 
not claim to have sunk the U-boat, at least many a mer- 
chant ship was spared from destruction owing to the 
enemy's attention being distracted. An incident in the 
summer of 1915 illustrated this fact. On August 14th 


the trawler Amadavat (Skipper P. P. Glanville), 
based on Milford, was patrolling about 3.45 p.m. ten miles 
south-south-east of the Tuskar. She was armed with one 
6-pounder. A submarine was seen a mile away on the 
port bow. The Amadavat proceeded at full speed (8 knots) 
towards her and fired a couple of shots. This made the 
enemy submerge. The Amadavat then headed for the line 
of drifters and warned them of the danger in which they 
were standing, and afterwards proceeded north-north-west 
towards the position where the U-boat had last been seen. 
The enemy craft was discovered half a mile astern of a big 
steamer. The trawler again opened fire, and after four 
shots the submarine disappeared. Skipper Glanville then 
wisely surmised that the enemy would appear the next time 
ahead of the steamer, so the gunner of the Amadavat was 
ordered to train his 6-pounder on the bow of the merchant- 
man. The submarine did appear as expected, whereupon 
the trawler fired two more shots which dropped very close, 
causing the submarine to alter course away from the 
trawler. The Amadavat continued firing, the third shot 
smothering the enemy conning-tower with spray. After 
this narrow escape the submarine disappeared. The trawler 
forthwith picked up the steamer's boats and resumed 
the patrol. By persistency and eagerness, combined with 
courage and common sense. Skipper Glanville had un- 
doubtedly saved this vessel — the Maxton. He was after- 
wards commended for his promptness and foresight, even 
though the submarine had escaped. 

Curiously enough, on the next afternoon a somewhat 
similar incident occurred in the North Sea. Near Smith's 
Knoll, off the East Anglian coast, the four Grimsby paddle- 
steamers, Brighton Queen, Westward Ho !, Glen Avon, and 
Cambridge, were engaged mine-sweeping. Not far away 
were some Lowestoft smacks, which had become favourite 
targets for the enemy submarines. Suddenly, at 2.15 p.m., 
the paddlers sighted a submarine of the UB type. Sweeps 
were immediately slipped, and the once familiar excursion 
steamers chased the submarine, opening a brisk fire with 
their guns. On board the Brighton Queen it was thought 
that the third round hit the enemy's conning-tower. It 
is amusing to picture an excursion paddle-steamer putting 
a warship to flight. That is, however, what happened. 
This prompt action, though it did not lead to the destruc- 


tion of the German submarine, certainly saved the fishing- 

But the submarine had not made good her escape, for on 
that same Saturday night she fell to one of the disguised 
Lowestoft fishing- smacks to which reference has already 
been made. This was the ketch Inverlyon, which had 
been armed with a 3-pounder. Her crew comprised her 
fishing skipper and three hands, all enrolled temporarily 
in the Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section). Her 
fighting crew consisted of a gunner R.N. (Mr. E. M. 
Jehan), who had with him four R.N. ratings. At 8.20 
p.m. this sailing-smack was trawling three miles north by 
east of Smith's Knoll spar buoy when she sighted U4. 
When the enemy had got within thirty yards the German 
ensign was observed, and an officer was heard shouting 
something about " boat " — most probably ordering the 
Inverlyon to launch her boat and come alongside. The 
submarine then stopped. The smack promptly hoisted 
the White Ensign and Mr. Jehan discharged his revolver 
at the German officer, this being the signal for the naval 
ratings to open fire from the 3-pounder. Nine rounds 
were promptly got off, of which the first and third shots 
were thought to have pierced the centre of the conning- 
tower and exploded inside ; the second shot cleared 
away the after part of the conning-tower, as well as the 
German ensign. The German officer fell overboard on 
the starboard side, probably dead. The submarine then 
came round the Inverlyon's side with the tide, so that 
she was distant only about ten yards. At this extremely 
short range six more shots were fired from the smack, 
the first striking the conning-tower, the second and fourth 
going over it, and the third, fifth, and sixth hitting the 
hull. The submarine went down at a very sharp 
angle, and it was confidently assumed that she had been 
fatally injured. The bodies of three men, who were still 
outside when the U-boat submerged, came to the surface ; 
one of the Germans was still alive and was shouting 
appealingly to be rescued. Skipper Phillips, in the 
Inverlyon, with instinctive gallantry and humanity, un- 
dressed and swam off with a lifebuoy, but the man sank 
before he could reach him. The Admiralty awarded Mr. 
Jehan a Distinguished Service Cross for this smart and 
successful action. 


A short, sharp submarine raid off the Irish coast, lasting 
from December 25th to December 28th, occurred with 
dramatic suddenness at the end of 1915. Comparative 
peace had settled down since September, and this outburst 
was an unpleasant surprise. If enemy craft on their way 
to the Mediterranean had imagined that the vigilance 
of the patrol craft would be relaxed during Christ- 
mastide, they were mistaken. At 1.35 p.m. on Christmas 
Day, when about nine miles W. by S. of the Smalls, 
the Van Stirum, used as an Admiralty transport, was 
attacked. She endeavoured to escape and sent out dis- 
tress calls. At 2.20 p.m. she wirelessed the message : 
" Done for ; pick me up five miles south of the Smalls.'* 
One shell had struck her on the starboard quarter and 
another had brought down her aerials. At 2.35 p.m. she 
was abandoned and the submarine torpedoed her. The 
torpedo passed under a partly lowered boat and struck the 
ship abreast the engine-room, blowing the American 
boatswain to pieces. At 4.15 p.m. the submarine returned 
to the ship and shelled her. At this point the enemy 
noticed three fishing-vessels approaching at high speed, 
the first vessel being the Belgian trawler Nadine, which 
was fishing out of Milford. Her skipper, on hearing the 
firing, hauled up his trawl, steamed in the direction of the 
sound, and w^as able to take on board the entire crew of 
the Van Stirum, whom he brought into Milford just before 
midnight. It was pure chance that the Belgian was 
fishing in that neighbourhood, but it was very fortunate 
for the men of the merchantman. 

The next thing was to find the Van Stirum, if still afloat. 
At 8.30 next morning the trawler Evangel (Lieutenant 
W. A. Peter, R.N.R.) discovered her with a heavy list 
eighteen miles south-east of the Tuskar, a pathetic derelict. 
A fine effort was made to save the ship. The Evangel 
launched her boat and put four of her men on board the 
Van Stirum to handle the tow ropes. There was no steam 
for the steering-wheel or means of putting in the hand- 
steering gear, so the vessel could not be controlled. At 
10 a.m. the drifter Lupina arrived, together with her group 
of Milford drifters. These craft were ordered to act as 
follows : One was directed to proceed to Rosslare so as 
to get a report through to Admiral Dare at Milford ; one 
was to cruise towards the Tuskar and one towards Milford 

II— 5 


to obtain towing assistance. At 10.20 a.m. the trawler 
Loch Awe came on the scene and took a tow rope from the 
Van Stirum's quarter in order to steer her, but this rope 
soon parted. The Loch Awe then changed positions with 
the Evangel, which had been towing ahead. 

The Evangel had buoyed the wire tow rope for the 
Lujnna to pick up, but the latter in doing so unfortun- 
ately fouled her own propeller. This was cut clear and a 
rope was then taken from the derelict's quarter. About 
11.80 a.m. the Loch Awe and Lujnna were towing ahead 
with the Evangel steering astern, the intention being to 
make the Blackwater, on the Irish coast. At 4 p.m., after 
repeatedly carrying away wires, the disabled ship fouled 
her propeller. Two hours later another vessel of the 
Auxiliary Patrol, the Osprey, arrived and managed to get 
a wire from forward. 

At midnight the wind freshened, with rain and 
increasing sea, and the Van Stirum fell into the trough 
of the sea, while the Evangel repeatedly parted her wires in 
a vain attempt to keep the ship end on to the waves. By 
3 a.m. there was a strong south-east wind and rough sea, 
and by the look of things the conditions were going to get 
much worse. At 6 a.m. the Evangel parted her last wire 
and informed the Osprey of the fact, reporting that the 
derelict was in a perilous condition. The Evangel then 
returned to the stricken vessel and, finding that she was 
likely to sink at any moment, endeavoured to go alongside 
and take the men off from the quarter. Owing to the 
heavy sea running this was not successful : in fact the 
EvangeVs starboard bow collided so heavily with the 
Van Stiruni's quarter as to start some of the trawler's 
rivets. Matters now became critical. The Evangel 
launched her boat and by means of a heaving line was 
able to pass this boat alongside the derelict. The latter's 
forward bulkhead had now collapsed, so that she had 
sunk by the head and remained with her nose on the 
bottom and her stern in the air for about a minute. She 
finally disappeared at 7.10 a.m. This incident occurred 
about eight miles S.E. by S. of South Arklow lightship. 
The Evangel then proceeded to search for the Van Stirurn's 
boat and found her half full of water, but she also 
found that the men had fortunately managed to get into 
her just in the nick of time. The sea was running so 


wildly that it was impossible to pick the boat up, so 
after getting the men safely on board it was abandoned. 
The attempt to salve the steamer had failed, but it had 
been a glorious failure, which only the bad weather had 
spoiled, A letter of appreciation came from the Admiralty 
to the officers and men of the Auxiliary Patrol who had so 
nearly succeeded in their purpose. 

Similar misfortune frustrated the efforts farther round 
the coast to rob the enemy of the fruits of his campaign. 
At 6.30 a.m. on December 28th an S.O.S. call was received 
at Queenstown from the oil tanker El Zorro off the Old 
Head of Kinsale. She was full of oil, badly needed for 
the prosecution of the war. She had safely crossed the 
Atlantic, but had been torpedoed in sight of port. The 
armed yacht Greta and a couple of obsolete torpedo-boats 
were at once dispatched to the scene, but by this time the 
submarine had made off westward. Two tugs were sent 
out, but could not make much headway owing to the sea. 
That night it blew a gale. The El Zorro anchored 
and the crew were taken off during the night by the 
trawler Freesia. The gale increased and no further steps 
could be taken to salve the ship. The El Zorro dragged 
her anchor, and went ashore a little way west of Queens- 
town. Still pursuing her way westward down the coast, 
the submarine three hours later was seen by another oiler, 
the Viturvia, but fortunately the enemy did not molest 
her. At 8 a.m. (December 28th) the light cruiser 
Adventure, with Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly himself on 
board, had left Queenstown and proceeded down the 
coast to hunt the submarine between Kinsale and the 
Fastnet. At 12,45 p,m. the Adventure picked up an 
S.O.S. from the Leyland liner Huronian, proceeded 
towards her at 22 knots, closed her about 1 p,m,, and 
found that she had been torpedoed. The Adventure 
then searched the vicinity and undoubtedly frightened 
the enemy away, with the result that the Huronian was 
successfully escorted by sloops and the trawler Bempton 
into Berehaven, where she was eventually patched up 
sufficiently for her to proceed to Liverpool with her valuable 
cargo of cotton and grain. 


THE fishermen's ORDEAL 

While passenger ships, cargo liners, and tramps were 
maintaining the country's oversea communications, the 
hardy seamen engaged in the fishing industry continued 
to ply their trade round the British coasts and farther 
afield. In the year 1913 the harvest of the sea had 
amounted to 1,202,453 tons, exclusive of salmon and shell- 
fish. The crowded population of the British Isles would 
have been reduced to sore straits in the matter of food if 
supplies of fish had been entirely cut off after the out- 
break of war. As has been recorded, the Admiralty at an 
early stage in the contest realised the value of fishing- 
craft, with their experienced crews, as supports of the 
Royal Navy, and gradually built up the Auxiliary Patrol. 
The crews of those vessels which remained free to continue 
their fishing operations were rendering no mean service 
to the community in supplying it with good food, as was 
generally recognised at the time, but there was little appre- 
ciation of the fact that the fishing-craft, in pursuing their 
peaceful functions, were not only running great risks, 
but were promoting the common cause. 

The fine spirit exhibited by the fishermen and the 
utility of their craft were fully appreciated by the enemy. 
In the middle of June 1915 a German retired admiral 
reviewed the situation at sea in the Vossische Zeitung, and 
advocated the indiscriminate destruction of British fishing- 
vessels on the ground that they formed an important 
auxiliary arm of the Royal Navy, and he added, with 
truth, that most of the nation's steam trawlers were already 
in the service of the Admiralty. But it was not merely 
the craft of the Auxiliary Patrol which greatly alarmed 
the U-boats. The unarmed and uncommissioned trawlers, 
while fishing or on voyage between their fishing-grounds 
and home ports, proved an increasing embarrassment, often 



causing the German submarine officers to break off a fight 
and even run away on some occasions. It was one of the 
surprises of the war that, as a rule, U-boats attacked 
trawlers with a conspicuous lack of determination. There 
were some outstanding exceptions, but these serve only to 
accentuate the cautious tactics usually employed. It might 
have been thought that, since they could sink passenger 
ships with such ease, they would have made bolder efforts 
to destroy the small fisher vessels. But it was the mobility 
of the latter, and the realisation that the trawler's steel 
forefoot represented an effective weapon for ramming, 
that made the enemy play for safety and rely on long-dis- 
tance attack. 

The fishing-trawler was otherwise defenceless. If the 
enemy, by skilful manoeuvring, evaded those defensive- 
offensive tactics, the fishermen had to rely for safety on 
their own personal skill and seamanship. As the trawler 
was not a fighting ship, but was at sea solely for the purpose 
of bringing fish to market, the first duty of the crew in 
the presence of a submarine was to save the ship. Thus 
it was with the fishing-trawler Phosbe, which had left 
I Fleetwood bound for the Iceland fishing-grounds. On 

June 18th, while passing Barra Head, she was stopped 
by a patrol-boat and warned that submarines were about. 
The Phoebe's skipper (Mr. J. W. Golding) therefore 
doubled the lookout. In the early hours of the next 
morning he was again stopped by a patrol-boat off St. 
Kilda, and informed that two vessels had been sunk off 
the Butt of Lewis. The Phoebe continued her voyage, 
laying a course for Iceland, and after steaming another 
fifty-five miles by the log a suspicious object was sighted. 
It was now 8.20 a.m. and the mate was in the wheel-house. 
He did not waste time in speculation, but promptly called 
the skipper from his cabin, telling him that he had sighted 
what he took to be a submarine about a mile and a half 
to the eastward, with periscope and conning-tower show- 
ing and hull awash. The submarine was heading north- 
north-west and the trawler N. J E. 

Skipper Golding spoke down the tube to the chief en- 
gineer and, directing him to give the trawler all possible 
steam, he altered course so as to go head-on for the enemy's 
conning-tower. The submarine then steered more westerly, 
and away went the Phoebe likewise for about twenty 


minutes, the U-boat in the meantime gradually rising to the 
surface. The enemy next hauled off to the southward, 
stopped, and at a distance of a mile opened fire ; the first 
shell dropped about fifty yards short on the trawler's 
starboard bow. Skipper Golding's duty now was obvious. 
His ship was unarmed and, if he remained where he was, 
she would almost certainly be sunk. Therefore, having 
failed to ram the enemy, he used his utmost endeavours 
to save his owner's property. It was a fine clear 
morning, and he could see the smoke of a couple of 
vessels to the eastward and another couple to the south- 
ward. He accordingly kept his vessel going, blew his steam 
whistle continuously, showed his stern to the submarine, 
and zigzagged his course. The second shell dropped into 
the sea only twenty yards short ; the third whizzed close 
over the wheel-house ; the fourth fell just short of the 
stern. It was a pretty close thing, but by clever handling 
the skipper brought his vessel safely out of the fray ; he 
succeeded in running the U-boat out of sight, and even- 
tually got to St. Kilda, where he reported his adventure. 
When the full account of this incident reached the 
Admiralty, their Lordships sent Skipper Golding an 
expression of their appreciation of his courageous action 
in attempting to ram, and in his success in avoiding the 
loss of his ship. They also awarded the sum of £55 to be 
divided between owners, skipper, mate, and crew. 

The sinkings of ordinary fishing-vessels became 
numerous as the summer of 1915 advanced. Ten were 
sunk in April, twenty-two in May, and fifty-eight in June, 
this month marking the " peak " of the curve ; there 
were thirty-six sinkings in July and August respectively, 
and only six in September. No such incidents occurred 
again until January 1916, when seven were sunk, the 
greatest number attained that year being thirty-eight in 
the month of September. In July U3 succeeded in 
destroying a number of fishing-trawlers belonging to Hull, 
Grimsby, Aberdeen, and North Shields. To combat these 
tactics of the enemy in attacking ordinary fishing-vessels, 
disguised trawlers were being used with the fishing-fleets, 
but enough patrol-trawlers were not available to provide 
complete protection. The Fishing Vessels' Owners' Asso- 
ciations at both Hull and Grimsby were protesting at this 
period against the Admiralty requisitioning any more 


trawlers for the naval service. For a time some East 
Coast fishing-craft were allowed to carry pigeons for send- 
ing information ashore of enemy activities, but this method 
of passing in intelligence was found slow and unreliable. 
The two armed yachts Eileen and Mekong were charged 
with the duty of keeping an eye on East Coast fishing-fleets 
and used to go out to about long. 2° 25' E,, where the Hull 
fishing-fleet of trawlers was at work in September. Three 
armed trawlers fitted with wireless were also dispatched 
patrolling off the Dogger Bank. 

About 350 fishing-trawlers continued, in spite of the 
war, to fish in the North Sea ; the steam fish- carriers went 
out to meet them as in normal times and conveyed the 
catches to London. In spite of the losses sustained, the 
fishermen continued to go to sea with complete disregard 
of all danger. Some of the " yarns " current during the 
war concerning the casual regard which the North Sea 
fisherman had for mines must be dismissed as apocryphal. 
But in the late summer of 1915 two cases did occur which 
support the adage that fact is stranger than fiction. One 
day, for instance, a fisherman came into Grimsby towing 
a German mine which had all its horns knocked off. He 
explained that as he had heard that the horns were the 
dangerous parts he had knocked them off with a boat- 
hook ! Another fisherman one night made fast to what 
he thought was a buoy ; but at daylight it turned out to 
be a mine ! Fortunately, efficient as undoubtedly the 
German mines usually were, in many instances they failed 
to act ; otherwise neither of these fishermen would have 
seen his home port again. 

The mastering of the submarine menace now needed 
something else besides seamanship and gallantry. British 
seamen were opposed to the best brains of the German 
Navy and the most enterprising of its personnel. It was 
obvious, therefore, that to bravery had to be added subtlety 
and to daring cunning. If it is impossible to catch a 
pest by ordinary means, a trap for him must be baited ; 
in other words, he must be taken off his guard. That is 
precisely what now had to be done in the North Sea. 
The best form of trap was to disguise the armament of a 
patrol-trawler, leaving her paint and fishing numbers and 
the deck appointments, her masts and funnels, just as they 
were in peace-time, and send her to sea among the fishing- 


fleets, on the pretence of fishing, in the hope that the enemy 
would appear and attack her. The armed trawlers would 
then cease pretending and open fire at the enemy. This 
stratagem was being tried in the early months of 1915, for 
instance, by Humber armed trawlers among the Dogger 
Bank fishing-craft, but so far no submarine had been sunk. 

But a more ingenious device was subsequently evolved, 
which was as successful as it was clever. The idea was 
to send an apparently innocent fishing-trawler in those 
waters off the north-east Scottish coast where fishing-craft 
had actually been sunk. Attack was invited. This was 
the bait. Astern of the trawler was one of the C-class of 
submarines, submerged, but towed by the trawler. This 
was the trap. An elastic cable and telephones were in- 
stalled in order to keep up communication, and thus the 
trawler could keep the submarine informed of the enemy's 
movements, so that, at the precise moment, the British 
submarine could cast off tow rope and cable, and attack 
her " opposite number," the U-boat. This scheme was 
first suggested by Acting-Paymaster F. T. Spickernell, 
R.N., Admiral Beatty's secretary, but the details were 
worked out by Captain V. H. S. Haggard, R.N., who was 
in command of H.M.S. Vulcan, the submarine depot 
ship, lying in Leith docks, where a flotilla of submarines 
was stationed for the defence of the Firth of Forth. 

The senior officer of these submarines was Lieutenant- 
Commander H. O. Edwards, R.N., afterwards killed, and 
he, together with the other submarine officers, exercised 
their crews for a whole month, going out to sea and in- 
viting attack. No success was achieved until June 8th. 
C27 was operating in the manner indicated with the dis- 
guised armed trawler Taranaki, and the submarine was just 
about to fire her torpedo when it was realised that the 
U-boat was too near. It was feared at the time that the 
enemy had seen C27 and that thus Germany would learn 
of this new ruse. The greatest care was therefore 
necessary in any future attempt. 

At 1 a.m. on June 23rd H.M. Submarine C24, under 
the command of Lieutenant F. H. Taylor, R.N., stole 
out of Aberdeen in company with the armed trawler 
Taranalii and shaped a south-easterly course. Five hours 
later the trawler (Lieutenant-Commander Edwards) took 
the submarine in tow. The latter then submerged to 

CH. Ill] C24 SINKS U40 55 

thirty feet. At 9.30 a.m. a U-boat rose to the surface 
fifty miles S.E. by S. of Girdleness and fired a gun across the 
trawler's bows at a distance of about 2,000 yards, the shell 
bursting about twenty yards ahead. Three minutes later 
C24 was informed by telephone that the enemy was 1,000 
yards astern. Thereupon Lieutenant Taylor gave orders to 
slip the tow, but unfortunately, by the worst of luck, the 
tow rope jammed and could not be slipped. Finally, at 9.45 
a.m. the trawler slipped her end of the rope and stopped. 
The enemy also stopped, being on the trawler's starboard 
beam, about a thousand yards off ; she was trimmed ready 
for instant diving. Clearly the German scented the trap, 
so in order to entice him Lieutenant- Commander Edwards 
ordered out the trawler's boat as if he were abandoning ship. 
Meanwhile C24 had gone ahead with helm a-starboard to 
attack the U-boat. Again, by bad luck, the British 
submarine became unhandy and immediately sank to thirty- 
eight feet, and it took some time to get her trim right again. 
The cause of this mishap was presently discovered. 
One hundred fathoms of 3|-inch towing wire and some 8-inch 
coir hawser, in addition to a hundred fathoms of telephone 
cable, were still fast to the bows. In spite of this, the two 
coxswains of C24 steered and trimmed her so ably that she 
never broke surface. Meanwhile Lieutenant Taylor, using 
his periscope little and seldom, eventually sighted the 
enemy's conning-tower and gun, and closed to 500 yards. 
He then manoeuvred to get in a beam shot, and at 9.55 a.m. 
fired at the conning-tower. To the joy of the Taranaki's 
crew, the torpedo was seen to explode under the conning- 
tower and the U-boat instantly sank, never again to rise. 
C24 then came to the surface and picked up the German 
commanding officer, while the Taranaki rescued another 
officer and one petty officer. Nothing else remained of 
this enemy craft — U40 — except a lifebuoy and a bucket. 
When C24 tried to go astern it was discovered that the 
propeller refused to move, having twenty turns of tele- 
phone cable round the shaft. However, having transferred 
the German prisoners to the trawler, C24 was taken in tow 
again and safely reached Aberdeen. Everyone had done 
well in the Taranaki and C24, in spite of difficulties, and 
one of the latest and most successful U-boats had been 
accounted for. For this service Lieutenant-Commander 
Edwards received the D.S.O., and Lieutenant Taylor the 


D.S.C., and each coxswain a D.S.M. It is interesting to 
note that the captain of U40 admitted that he had been 
watching the Taranaki all the moVning and had been 
completely deceived, so excellent was the disguise. 

On the same morning that this incident occurred, another 
trawler engagement was being fought off the Hebrides far 
from the scene of the Phcebe^s encounter. It was eleven 
o'clock, and the armed trawler Bush (Skipper G. King) 
was on patrol about eight miles north-north-west of the 
Butt of Lewis. Two drifters with their nets down were 
three miles inside of her at the time, and it was blowing 
hard from east-north-east with considerable sea. Sud- 
denly from windward a shell fell about fifty yards 
short of the wheel-house of the Bush, which was head- 
ing about south-east. Skipper King went full speed 
ahead, altered course, and saw a submarine travel- 
ling about north-north-west. Whilst in the act of turn- 
ing, a second shot was fired and this also missed. The 
Bush now used her rocket distress signal, hoisted the 
signal " Submarine in sight," and fired her 12-pounder. 
This first shot from the trawler fell short ; the second shot 
was very close, but also short. The third shot was so 
close that the enemy made a smoke screen and under 
cover of this dived and disappeared. For two hours search 
was made in the heavy sea, but the enemy was not seen 
again. Shortly afterwards the Bush met the Norwegian 
s.s. Bianca, bound from Archangel, and directed her down 
the Minch, thus saving her from the submarine. The 
Bush was only slightly damaged by the six shots fired at 
her. Of these the last three were hits, the fourth having 
passed between the gunlayer and breechworker. Two 
large pieces of shell were picked up which indicated that 
the enemy's gun — the equivalent of 3|-inch — was decidedly 
superior to that of the trawler's. The submarine was not 
sunk, but a trawler had shown the enemy that fishermen 
were fighters. The incident pleased both Admiral Jellicoe 
and the Admiralty, and from the latter came an expression 
of appreciation and the sum of £60 for the crew of the 

About a month later there followed yet another trawler- 
submarine engagement off the Hebrides, but this time 
it was at the southern end, in the neighbourhood of Barra 
Head. If it be matter for surprise that German submarines 


at this time should have hovered about the Hebrides, 
the reason is not far to seek. The Grand Fleet in Scapa 
Flow required an enormous amount of coal and other 
stores. These supplies had to be brought in merchant 
ships which came up the West Coast so as to avoid the 
submarines operating in the North Sea. In addition, 
there was a good deal of other traffic by merchant ships, 
especially to Archangel, through which we were supplying 
war material to the Russians. Moreover, both Barra 
Head in the south, the Butt of Lewis in the north, and the 
island of St, Kilda in the west were landmarks, navigation- 
ally most useful to the U-boats proceeding to and from the 
coast of Ireland. It followed, then, that the craft of the 
Auxiliary Patrol based on Stornoway had no easy time. 

On July 27th, at 4 a.m. — just that time when nature 
is at its lowest and when, therefore, the best lookout is not 
always maintained — the armed trawler Pearl was patrolling 
off Barra Head. The weather was not pleasant, for the 
wind was freshening from the south-east and it was thick ; 
there was a moderate south-west swell coming in from 
the Atlantic ; almost certainly a gale was brewing. At 
4.15 a.m. a small object was sighted four points on the 
starboard bow, about 5,280 yards away. Course was altered 
towards it, and five minutes afterwards, as it appeared to 
be a submarine on the surface, heading south, the trawler 
cleared for action. The Pearl was commanded by Sub- 
Lieutenant A. C. Allman, R.N.R., and carried also a skipper 
in addition to her crew. 

With all hands at their stations, the skipper at the 
wheel, and full speed on the engine-room telegraph, 
the Pearl made for the enemy vessel, which altered 
course to south-south-west. The trawler had nothing 
better than a little 3-pounder gun, so Sub-Lieutenant 
Allman instructed his petty officer not to open fire 
until the range was down to 1,000 yards. At 4.25 a.m. 
the submarine was only 500 yards off, but travelling 
at high speed and firing across the trawler's bows. 
The Pearl altered course and prepared to ram, at the same 
time bringing her gun to bear. The first two shots dropped 
very close to the submarine's stern ; the fifth and sixth 
seemed to hit. It was a short range ; the gun's crew were 
working quickly and the shooting was good, but within 
five minutes the gun no longer bore. The submarine was 


compelled hurriedly to dive, crossing close to the trawler's 
bows. Sub-Lieutenant Allman put his helm hard a-star- 
board and made a great effort to ram, but missed the 
enemy by about forty feet. In a short time the periscope 
was seen, so the petty officer at the gun took careful aim 
and with his second shot hit and broke off the periscope, 
after which the U-boat submerged completely, leaving on 
the surface a thick oily wake. 

This was to prove an exceptionally long duel, one of the 
very longest in the whole of the submarine war, and it 
speaks well for the dogged determination of the officer 
in charge and his crew that with such inferior armament 
they were able to dominate an enemy equipped with a 
more powerful gun, as well as torpedoes, and possessing 
the ability to choose his own range. It is known now that 
the submarine was U41 and that her captain was one of 
the most efficient officers of his service. At 4.35 a.m. 
she was heading south-west, doing about 7 knots, so the 
Pearl took a position on her opponent's starboard bow, 
kept a parallel course, and, with her gun bearing, was 
ready to ram should the U-boat come to the surface. 
This went on until an hour later, when the enemy altered 
course to north-east, with speed unchanged. At 6.15 a.m. 
the U-boat again altered course, this time to north-west, 
and eased to 4 knots. It was obvious that the Pearl, by 
keeping up the chase, was causing the enemy's batteries 
to run down and all the while the trawler kept closing in, 
alert for the first chance of ramming. Unfortunately, a 
quarter of an hour later the weather came on thick, rain 
falling, but at 9.15 a.m. the submarine came close to the 
surface, though without showing herself. Still refusing 
to lose any possible chance, the trawler carried on, and at 
11 a.m. endeavoured to fire her explosive sweep about 500 
feet ahead of the oily wave, but by a piece of bad luck the 
electric cable was so injured in getting it over the side that 
it would not fire. Troubles did not come singly, for, after 
chasing for another hour, the chief engineer reported that 
one of his pumps was out of order and that it would be 
necessary to stop in an hour's time for a repairing job 
which would take three hours. 

It was a most disappointing incident, yet there was no 
possible alternative but to give up the chase, which had 
now brought the Pearl to a position thirty-eight miles 

CH. Ill] THE LAST OF U41 59 

S.W. by W. of St. Kilda. The Pearl managed to get into 
St. Kilda that same afternoon, but with scarcely any water 
in her boiler. She had maintained a spirited hunt after the 
submarine over a period of nearly eight hours, during which 
the trawler had exercised her will-power over the enemy 
simply by sheer blunt determination. Had the Pearl really 
damaged U41 ? At the time it was thought that the enemy 
had been holed in an oil-tank in his outer skin and that this 
accounted for the oily wake. Four shots had been fired by 
the submarine and thirty-four by the trawler, so at short 
range some could not have failed to hit. It was after- 
wards ascertained that U41 was seriously injured in the 
conning-tower, so that, although she was outward bound, 
she was compelled to break off her voyage and return home. 
This was to be no pleasure cruise for the U-boat, for, 
having arrived at St. Kilda, the Pearl made her report, 
and later on in the day a wireless message informing the 
patrols was picked up by the armed yacht Vanessa, which 
immediately altered course to cut off the retreating enemy. 
At 9.10 p.m. she actually sighted her and chased her till 
after ten o'clock, but then the enemy got away and was 
seen no more that day. At four the next morning she was 
sighted still farther north by the armed trawler Stanley 
Weyman, by the armed yacht Maid of Honour, and by the 
armed trawler Swan, and chased for the best part of two 
hours, but U41 evaded them and got safely back to Ger- 
many. This submarine was in charge of Lieutenant- 
Commander Hansen, who had already had experience of 
the offensive- defensive value of the ram. For U41 was 
just out from the dockyard after repairs caused by 
being rammed on July 16th by the mine-sweeping gun- 
boat Speedwell, which on this day had sighted U41 
only 250 yards away, and had gone for her with full speed 
on both engines and struck her with such force as to cause 
the Speedwell to heel over, her bottom plating being 
damaged. The incident had occurred north of the Shet- 
lands and had damaged both periscopes of the submarine, 
so that she had to make her way back across the North 
Sea, reaching Germany on July 19th. The moral effect 
on the crew of the PearVs success in sending her home for 
repairs a second time within the same month can well be 
imagined. U41 was sent to her grave by a British man- 
of-war a few weeks later. As to the PearVs exploit, the 


Admiralty praised her commanding officer and crew, 
awarding them the sum of £150 and promoting Sub- 
Licutcnant Allman to Lieutenant, with seniority dating 
from the day on which he had engaged the submarine. 

On the southern side of the Firth of Forth is the port of 
Granton, which by the spring of 1915 had developed into 
a most important naval base, crowded with all kinds of 
vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol. The senior naval officer 
was Admiral James Startin, who, having ended his time 
on the active list before the war opened, had come back 
to serve as a R.N.R. officer. To his infectious enthusiasm 
and powers as an organiser were due in large measure the 
successes which were achieved by the vessels using this 
base. He had been struck during the early summer by 
the number of molestations by submarines of neutral 
merchant traffic in the North Sea. On July 9th a U-boat 
had held up four steamers about forty miles east of Fifeness, 
but had bolted as soon as the armed yacht Minona had 
come into sight. The Admiral therefore resolved to 
carry out a stratagem. Among his vessels were two fine 
trawlers, the Quickly and the Gunner. The former had 
already been disguised so cleverly that she had been taken 
by one of our own destroyers for a Danish cargo steamer. 
He now improved her disguise, replaced her 3-pounder 
by a 12-pounder, mounted a 6-pounder aft, and sent her 
off to St. Andrew's Bay. The trawler Gunner he also 
disguised, giving her a deck cargo made up of an empty 
hawser reel, a hundred bags of sawdust, some empty 
crates, and some timber. The Gunner joined the Quickly 
in St. Andrew's Bay and to her transferred the cargo. 
Four naval ratings as guns' crew had been put on board 
these two ships, and on July 19th the vessels left the bay, 
Admiral Startin himself being in the Quickly, and steamed 
towards Bell Rock, where target practice was carried out 
until the Admiral was satisfied that both vessels could 
make good shooting. 

They then proceeded to their rendezvous where sub- 
marines had recently been at work, and during the after- 
noon the Quickly completed her disguise as a Norwegian 
cargo boat, Norwegian colours being hoisted at the mizzen 
masthead and also painted on prepared slips of canvas 
which were placed on each side amidships. To make the 
disguise perfect, a couple of derricks were placed on the 


foremast. She thus resembled one of those numerous 
Norse traders which could be seen any day in the North 
Sea. At 9 a.m. on July 20th the Quickly arrived at the 
rendezvous, and just one hour later a large submarine was 
sighted on the surface with two masts and two guns. 
Ten minutes afterwards both the " Norwegian " vessel 
and the U-boat were steering parallel courses, the inter- 
vening distance being about four miles. For a short 
period the U-boat scrutinised the Quickly, then altered 
course to cut her off, lowering both masts. At 10.24 the 
enemy had closed to about 1,500 yards and hoisted the 
international signal to stop. Five minutes later she fired 
the first shot at the trawler ; but already the latter's gun 
crew had been preparing for action under cover. The 
Norwegian flag was now hauled down, the White Ensign 
run up, the strips of canvas taken off, and at 10.32 the 
Quickly returned the fire from her 12-pounder with a shot 
that struck the enemy's hull abaft the conning-tower, 
much smoke being seen to issue from her. The 6-pounder 
then opened fire, and the enemy returned it, but her shots 
fell either short or over. Admiral Startin himself stated : 

" The 6-pounder claims to have put her foremost gun 
out of action. The third shot from the 12-pounder struck 
the submarine right forward, and flames were seen by 
myself and everybody coming from her bows." 

At 10.50 a.m. the U-boat submerged until her conning- 
tower was awash, but came to the surface again and began 
to steam away in that condition. By this time the Gunner, 
which had been following astern, arrived on the scene and 
also opened fire. The German craft steamed away very 
slowly, being at times enveloped in smoke. Another shot 
from the Quickly^s 12-pounder shattered the conning-tower 
and the Gunner also hit her. The two ships then closed 
the enemy with a view to ramming her, but she submerged 
and at first could be clearly seen by them. There was much 
oil and there were many bubbles ; so a depth charge was 
exploded. Nothing came to the surface to suggest that 
it was effective. After remaining in the neighbourhood 
for another couple of hours, the two British craft left the 
scene. It was afterwards learnt that the submarine was 
not sunk ; she had managed to get home in a wounded 
condition. There are on record other equally amaz- 


ingly narrow escapes where U-boats, after being quite 
as severely punished, managed to make really long voyages 
safely back to Germany. No one, however, will begrudge 
the commendation which the Admiralty bestowed on 
Admiral Startin, the officers and crews of these two ships, 
nor the sum of £500 which was awarded to be divided 
among the crews. To Lieutenant T. E. Price, R.N.R., 
the commanding officer of the Quickly, was given the 
D.S.C., and a similar decoration was conferred on Sub- 
Lieutenant C. H. Hudson, R.N.R., who was in command 
of the Gunner. The D.S.M. was conferred on the captains 
of the 12-pounder and the 6-pounder guns respectively, 
and also on the Admiral's coxswain, who spotted for the 
6-inch gun in the Quickly. 

Whilst such engagements as these were going on, the 
fishermen, who were still pursuing their calling, showed 
that they were ready for any emergency with which the 
fate of war might confront them. At the end of June 
the Norwegian barque Kotka, an iron-built vessel of just 
under a thousand tons, had the misfortune to fall in with 
a submarine in the Atlantic off the south-west Irish coast. 
But for the Hull fishing-trawler Rambler she could never 
have been saved ; and in order rightly to appreciate the 
circumstances it is necessary first to realise what were the 
hazards which sailing-ships were at this time compelled 
to support. 

Owing to the scarcity of tonnage, the demand for such 
sailing-ships as could carry oversea cargoes was now very 
great. The Government had taken up a large number of 
steamships as war auxiliaries, transports, supply ships, 
colliers. At the same time there was greater need for 
tonnage in which to bring across the ocean food, timber, 
and other commodities to meet national and military 
needs. In these circumstances, the despised sailing-ship, 
even though old, entered on a fresh lease of life. The 
British register was swelled by many German sailing-ships 
which had been captured and sold to British or neutral 
firms and were now engaged in carrying grain. But the 
U-boat was no longer confined to the North Sea : she 
too was an ocean-going craft which could go round the 
north of Scotland, into the Atlantic, down the Irish 
coast, and operate off the western approaches of the 
British Isles. No easier prey could be afforded the sub- 


marine than the home-coming saihng-ship ; she was in 
the nature almost of a gift to any U-boat that might come 
along. Thus, during the first half of June in the south- 
west approaches to the British Isles, no fewer than five 
British, three Allied, and two neutral sailing-ships were 
sunk, most of them carrying valuable cargoes of raw 
materials. A spell of easterly winds, such as is usual 
during this month, exposed these craft to considerable 
risks, and therefore the Mercantile Marine Service Associa- 
tion of Liverpool suggested to the Admiralty the desira- 
bility of providing free towage into port of such sailing- 
ships as arrived off our coasts. Tugs, it was urged, should 
be stationed at Queenstown and Falmouth to assist them 
into port. 

It was whilst the Admiralty were considering this matter 
that the fine four-masted barque Dumfriesshire of Glasgow 
(2,622 tons) was torpedoed and sunk on June 28th, twenty- 
five miles south-west of the Smalls. She had left San 
Francisco with 4,100 tons of barley and had reached 
Falmouth on June 25th. From there she had been ordered 
to Dublin, and on her way was destroyed. In July Lloyd's 
also wrote to the Admiralty giving a list of sailing-vessels 
sunk by submarines since March 31st, and made the 
suggestion that sailing-vessels should be warned, when 
approaching the United Kingdom, of the safest routes. 
From March 31st to July 2nd, it was pointed out, forty- 
three of these craft had been sunk by U-boats off the 
British Isles, and on July 6th there were at sea bound from 
American ports for the United Kingdom no fewer than 138 
sailing-ships with such valuable cargoes as grain, timber, 
and nitrate. 

The difficulty was that there were no such things 
as safe routes : wherever a sailing-ship went she was 
in grave danger. A conference was therefore held, 
presided over by the Fourth Sea Lord, with representatives 
of the Board of Trade, the Sailing- Ship Association, and 
the Trade Division of the Admiralty. This took place 
on July 16th, and it was decided that the Admiralty should 
be asked to send a cruiser to meet all in-coming ships and 
indicate to them a port of discharge, whence they might 
be convoyed ; that the Admiralty should be requested 
to telegraph to the various Consuls directing them to advise 
the masters of saiHng-ships to stop outside the 100-fathom 
II— 6 


line and there await a westerly wind, then running straight 
to their port of discharge : that westerly ports should, 
where possible, be used for discharge : that the Admiralty 
should locally provide the necessary tugs subject to the 
exigencies of the naval service. The outcome of this 
was the issue of an order that when towage was urgently 
needed for sailing-ships it should be provided ; and In- 
telligence Officers were advised by telegraph all over the 
world to warn British and Allied sailing-ships to keep 
west of the 100-fathom line until a favourable wind should 
enable them to lay a direct course for their destination. 

Such, then, was the degree of risk which awaited the 
home-coming sailing-ship. The Hull steam-trawler 
Rambler had left Liverpool for her fishing- grounds off the 
south-west of Ireland, and in the early hours of the morning 
was engaged in fishing when she sighted the Kotka about 
seven miles off. Something in her appearance was evidently 
wrong, so at 6 a.m. the trawler hove up her gear and 
steamed towards her. It was at once obvious that there 
was not a soul on board : it was equally evident that she 
had been holed. What actually had happened was that, 
when thirty miles south-west of the Bull Rock, a submarine 
had shelled her and then the crew had abandoned ship. 
She was an iron ship, bound from Maine to Cork, and it 
was pathetic that, after safely crossing the Atlantic, she 
should have fallen a victim so near to her port of destina- 
tion. Skipper Richmond launched the Rambler's boat, 
and sent the mate, second engineer, boatswain, and cook 
to investigate, but on account of the heavy sea they were 
unable to get on board. However, five hours later the 
boat was again launched and Skipper Richmond went 
himself, together with the second engineer and a deck 
hand, to see what could be done. He found the barque 
was under water forward and the only part of her hull 
that was clear was her poop. He decided to try and take 
her in tow as the weather was moderating, and in the 
meantime returned to his trawler. At six o'clock that 
evening the wind had died down, though there was a big 
ocean swell, and the operation began. 

The position of the two ships was now about thirty or 
thirty-five miles south-south-west of Galley Head. It 
was quite possible that a submarine might suddenly appear 
from nowhere and sink both trawler and barque. The 


salving of the latter was, therefore, no ordinary hazard. 
Fishermen, as a class, are not distinguished navigators, 
but they do number among them some of the finest 
exponents of seamanship, and this latter art was well 
exhibited on this occasion. The mate, chief engineer, and 
deck hand boarded the Kotka, and got a wire hawser off 
a reel which was on the barque's after deck-house. This 
wire they floated down to the Rambler by supporting the 
wire with the Kotka's buoys and lifebelts, one end of it 
being secured to the barque. The trawler then steamed 
as near as possible to the floats, and a wire from the 
Rambler was made fast to the end of the Kotka' s wire; 
the former then shackled her trawl warps on to it. By 
this time it was 7.30 p.m. and towing commenced, the 
barque being towed stern first because of the damage 
she had sustained forward. All went well during the 
night, and at four the following morning the trawler 
signalled the Old Head of Kinsale asking that an Admiralty 
tug should be sent from Queenstown. At 10 a.m. the 
armed trawler Heron arrived from that port. She made 
fast to the Kotka's port quarter, but her warps parted 
twice. The Rambler then shortened her warp, but this 
caused it to part also, after which it was decided to tow 
the barque bow first. Some of the Heron's and Rambler's 
crew were put aboard her, and from 11 a.m. the Heron 
towed ahead, with the Rambler astern steering. An horn- 
later the Admiralty tug Warrior from Queenstown arrived 
and took the Heron's place, and in the evening a second 
Admiralty tug came on the scene and lashed alongside. 
In a short time the barque was got safely into Queenstown 
Harbour, and beached after a fifty-mile tow. 

Thus once more trawlers, manned by men of stubborn 
purpose, had defeated the machinations of the enemy's 
submarine warfare. The sea is the strictest of schools, 
and the fisherman spends most of his life learning its 
lessons. If the fishing industry of the British Isles had 
not existed in a flourishing state, it would have been 
impossible to deal with the submarine menace : the U-boats 
would have acted almost as they pleased. More food- 
carrying steamers would have been sunk, greater hard- 
ships would have had to be endured ashore, and the armies 
would have lacked adequate supplies. Gales of wind, 
thick weather, dark nights, intricate pilotage, ship-salving 


on the high seas, ship-handHng in narrow waters — these 
are the common experiences of fishermen and keep ahve 
that spirit which has meant, and will continue to mean, 
so much to an island people. The liner, the tramp, the 
trawler and drifter are all part of the nation's essential sea 

But the work of the trawlers was not confined merely 
to the thwarting of submarines : the insidious mine 
throughout the war remained a standing menace to the 
ships of the Grand Fleet and Merchant Navy alike. In 
April the Swarte Bank mine-field had been laid ; about 
the end of next month or the beginning of June the Outer 
Silver Pit mine-field had been laid ; and on the night of 
May 17th-18ththe Dogger Bank mine-field came into exist- 
ence, the enemy's hope being to entrap the Grand Fleet 
on its periodical sweeps towards the Heligoland Bight. 
Most wisely the Admiralty policy had been to allow the 
fishing-trawlers the widest possible freedom in fishing, 
realising that so long as the fishermen were permitted 
to go about their work unfettered, the country had the 
advantage of an improvised sweeping-fleet scouting, as it 
were, for these hidden mines. The fishermen wanted 
nothing but their freedom, and this was conceded to 
them in large measure. The Swarte Bank mine-field had 
been discovered by fishing-trawlers, so had the Outer Silver 
Pit mine-field ; so, too, was the Dogger Bank mine-field 
in the month of May. In effect, fishing-trawlers, dragging 
their gear along the bed of the sea, proved to be the out- 
posts of the mine-sweeping fleet. When once these mine- 
fields had been discovered, there followed months of 
wearisome work for the paddlers and trawlers engaged 
in sweeping up the laid mines. As to the Tory Island 
mine-field, laid as far back as the autumn of 1914, the 
clearance continued to be made under difficult circum- 
stances. During the comparatively fine weather of June 
much progress was made, and by the first week of July 
it was comparatively clear, though not till the following 
March was it definitely swept up completely for all ships. 

By the summer of 1915 two facts had been grasped. 
Up to June 1st all the enemy mines off our coasts had 
been laid by surface ships ; but from that date onwards 
the position was complicated by the advent of the UC- 
boats, based on Flanders, which laid their mines off pro- 


minent headlands and lightships in the southern portion 
of the North Sea. Off such places as the Thames Estuary, 
Lowestoft, and the Kentish coast, they endeavoured to 
block up well-used channels. The result was, obviously, 
to put a good deal of increased work on the trawlers and 
paddlers. This new phase of the enemy's policy em- 
phasised still more the high value of the Auxiliary 
Patrol, which enabled shipping to pursue its way with the 
minimum of risk. It is inconceivable that the port of 
London, for instance, could have received and dispatched 
so much shipping — and therefore goods — had it not been 
for the reliance placed on the mine-sweeping force to 
seaward. It is unnecessary to refer to the increased strain 
on material and personnel which this work involved, 
because that is obvious. The arrangements had to be 
adjusted, as well as might be, to the new conditions. 
Neither destroyers nor torpedo craft could be spared. 
Engines can be run only for a certain length of time ; 
ships need a refit every half-year : in like manner, the 
human machine, tuned up to the maximum of efficiency, 
can do only a limited amount of work and then it, too, 
must have a rest or break down utterly. All the time, 
however, cargoes of mines were being brought across from 
Bruges by way of Zeebrugge, dumped down off the south- 
east coast lightships, headlands, buoys, and landmarks in 
such a manner that special sweeping had to be constantly 
carried out. Men " groused," and officers complained, of 
this ceaseless nerve-wracking turmoil ; but each and all 
realised that the job had to be done and they alone could 
do it. Let these facts stand on record. 

But that was not all. Russia was still our Ally and had 
to be supplied with many important munitions of war. 
All this traffic depended on the Russian approaches being 
kept clear of mines. The Germans were not slow to 
appreciate this fact also, and in June sent up the auxiliary 
cruiser Meteor (of which we shall have something to say 
later) on a mining enterprise to the White Sea. This 
vessel left Germany escorted by a submarine and laid 
285 mines on the track to Archangel, about the 
beginning of June. The first intimation of this new 
mine-field was the blowing up of the steamer Arndale 
on June 11th, causing the loss of three lives. Between 
that date and the end of September nine other merchant 


ships, of British, Russian, Norwegian, and American 
nationality, were either damaged or lost. The enemy's 
intention was obvious : he realised the value of the Russian 
offensive, and the importance of the sea lane by which 
military supplies were being sent into Russia through 

In another area far to the north the battle between the 
mine and the sweeper had, therefore, been joined. The 
enemy had laid the mines, would probably lay more, and 
it was the duty of British auxiliary vessels to assist the 
Russians in sweeping them up and keeping open a 
clear channel as long as the ice allowed. Therefore once 
more the much-wanted, hard-worked trawler was called 
in to bear the brunt of warfare. At Lowestoft an ex- 
pedition was fitted out consisting of half a dozen trawlers 
and a couple of supply ships, each trawler being armed 
with a 12- pounder gun, and the supply ships carrying stores 
for three months. These trawlers Avere the Bombardier, 
Sir Mark Sykes, T. R. Ferens, Granton, Lord Denman, and 
St. Cyr, the first-mentioned being fitted with wireless 
telegraphy. Commander L. A. Bernays, R.N., was 
placed in charge of the force. He was unfortunately 
afterwards killed when in command of a different type of 
ship ; he had left the Navy and emigrated to Canada, 
where he was living after the war had broken out. He 
returned to the Navy, and had from the first succeeded 
in infusing something of his own enthusiasm into the 
Grimsby trawlermen, who were sent with him to sweep 
up the Scarborough mine-field, laid in December 1914. 
Commander Bernays had a curious manner of maintaining 
discipline, and his naval outlook had been tempered by 
long residence in Canada, but his rough crews understood 
and respected him. After sweeping in the North Sea, 
he had been employed clearing up the Tory Island mine- 
field, whither he had insisted on taking his Grimsby 
trawlermen, rugged like himself in speech and character. 
When the Admiralty ordered Commander Bernays to 
undertake this Russian mine-sweeping expedition, they 
were well inspired. 

It was on June 22nd that the vessels left Lowestoft 
bound first for Lerwick, whence they crossed the North 
Sea, reaching Alexandrovsk on July 6th. They began 
immediately their mine-sweeping operations. By July 


9th several mines had been destroyed ; four days later 
the trawler T. R. Ferens struck a mine herself; but by 
the eighteenth of July this expedition had done such good 
work that fifty mines had been destroyed. By August 
10th the force had been increased by the arrival of two 
more trawlers from Lowestoft, besides a collier. By the 
middle of August there were still no Russian patrol- vessels, 
for there was, at Archangel, no fishing industry on which 
they could draw, and only one weak little steamer was 
engaged in stopping ships off Svyatoi Nos. The enemy 
had laid his mines cunningly off headlands and athwart 
the course which would be taken by shipping between 
these headlands. In September Commander Bernays was 
recalled to be employed in home waters. 

On October 2nd the armed yacht Mgusa (afterwards 
lost in the Mediterranean) arrived at Yukanskie from 
Aberdeen with Rear-Admiral Philhmore, who reported 
that by the middle of October 150 mines had been de- 
stroyed by our White Sea trawlers and a few by the Russians, 
but it would be impossible to destroy all the remaining 
mines before the ice set in. In November the ice set in 
and put an end to that year's campaign. It happened 
to be a very severe and early winter. 

In home waters there was so much work for the fishermen 
and their craft that the dispatch of additional vessels to 
the Baltic could not be justified. The attack on our 
fishing-fleets by August had become serious, and the 
fine weather was all in favour of the smaller sub- 
marines which came over the North Sea from Flanders. 
Especially was this the case in the vicinity of Lowestoft, 
where the fishing-fleet was scattered from Smith's Knoll 
all round the banks to the northward. Again, therefore, 
subtlety had to be allied with courage. The Senior Naval 
Officer at Lowestoft decided to commission four fishing- 
smacks, arm them with a 3-pounder each and send them 
off to the fishing- grounds so that it was impossible for 
even a friend, let alone a foe, to discriminate between 
armed decoy smacks and those unarmed. The following 
incident, the first of its Ivind, well illustrates the class 
of work which these sailing-vessels carried out. Incident- 
ally it is pertinent to remark that a year previously no one 
would have dared to have suggested that a fore and aft 
rigged sailing-vessel could ever again become a man-of-war. 


By August 8tli four of these sailing fishing-smacks had 
been commissioned. They left Lowestoft with their 
crews dressed in all respects like fishermen, and with 
nothing on deck or as to their rig suggesting that they 
were other than peaceful craft, meet victims for the first 
enemy submarine which might come along. Thus on 
the 11th of August the Lowestoft smack G. and E. put to 
sea. Her crew consisted of Lieutenant C. E. Hamond, 
R.N., her real skipper (F. W. Moxey) temporarily enrolled 
as second hand R.N.R. (T.), Petty Officer Elhs, R.N., 
Second-hand Page, temporarily enrolled as deck hand 
R.N.R. (T.), Leading Seaman J. Warman, R.N., as gun- 
layer, Third-hand H. Alexander, temporarily enrolled as 
deck hand R.N.R. (T.), and Able Seaman K. Hammond, 
R.N. There was thus an admixture of her original crew 
with experienced naval fighting men. At 1 p.m. this 
smack was about five miles south of Smith's Knoll Buoy 
when a submarine came to the surface three miles south-east 
of the smack Leader, which was a mile south of the G. and E. 
First of all the enemy closed the Leader and ordered the crew 
to launch their boat and go alongside the submarine. The 
enemy then made use of this boat to place a bomb in the 
Leader, which blew up, after which the fishermen were 
again placed in their boat and cast adrift. " So far so 
good," thought the Germans ; "we shall now deal with the 
smack G. and E. in the same manner." As the submarine 
was seen approaching this smack, the crew of the G. and E. 
pretended to be getting out their rowing-boat, and this 
business was kept up until the enemy had closed to some 
forty yards and had slewed to a position parallel with her 
intended victim. 

This was the smack's opportunity. Lieutenant Hamond 
issued a short sharp order, up went the White Ensign, 
and off went the gun. There was not a moment's 
delay. No one could afford to make a mistake ; they 
were at too close quarters for that ; and one of the 
two was certain to perish speedily. The duel, in fact, 
was so short that the smack fired only five rounds from 
her little 3-pounder. Three of these shots penetrated the 
conning-tower — for it was impossible at that point-blank 
range to miss — but the gun had to be depressed so much 
that the fourth and fifth shots actually struck the smack's 
rail, though one afterwards penetrated the base of the 






conning-tower. Petty Officer Ellis also succeeded in 
killing with his rifle one man who was in the conning- 
tower. With great rapidity the submarine dived at a 
very high angle, nose first, having been taken completely 
by surprise. So great was her hurry to submerge that she 
left the body of this man on the conning-tower. She never 
came up again. There was great joy among the Lowes- 
toft fishermen that this small but dangerous German war- 
ship from the Flemish coast had been got rid of so neatly. 

There were other instances of this successful armed 
smack warfare, and they certainly taught the invaders of 
Belgium that British seamen were skilful in stratagem as 
well as brave. A well-deserved D.S.C. was awarded to 
Lieutenant Hamond. This engagement furnished an 
admirable example of the way in which the Royal 
Navy and the Merchant Navy co-operated during the 
war with the sole object of defeating the Germans. 
To the plain, blunt seamanship of the latter came the 
aid of the former's fighting skill. Such was the peculiar 
temperament of the German, however, that he became 
very angry when he learned of the way mere sailing-smacks 
were destroying his ingeniously built craft, and threats 
were sent in to Lowestoft by other submarines through 
the medium of the crews of our fishing-vessels which were 
sunk later on. But not even these threats prevented the 
hardy North Sea- men from going about their work. Nelson 
himself was an East Anglian. In years to come descend- 
ants of the men of the twentieth century who confronted 
the enemy by sea will be moved to wonder and admir- 
ation when they realise that, in spite of the progress of 
physical science, little sailing-ships of wood, without 
mechanical power, met in close combat and destroyed 
steel vessels which could alike go ahead or astern, and 
make themselves invisible. 

The problem of the fisherman from the beginning to the 
end of the war was no easy one. If the naval authorities 
had stopped all fishing a most important industry 
would have been killed, causing distress and unem- 
ployment, besides depriving the nation of one of its 
principal articles of food. On the other hand, if they 
allowed fishing to continue, losses from mines, torpedoes, 
and gunfire and bombs could not be avoided. There is 
a tendency to minimise the value of the fishing trade. 


At the beginning of the war it employed in England and 
Wales alone 44,000 men and about 216,000 tons of sea- 
going craft. In addition, there must be reckoned many 
thousands of persons engaged in the distribution and 
curing of fish, The fish supply was the equivalent, accord- 
ing to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, of nearly 
half the total amount of meat annually consumed in the 
British Isles, and of this supply about seven-eighths were 
landed at coast ports. It came to this then, that these 
fishermen were, after the declaration of war, pursuing their 
calling in what a soldier would designate " no man's land," 
After the first few months of hostilities most of the best 
ships and the most active personnel had joined the Navy. 
Approximately 50 per cent, of the fishermen were serving 
under the White Ensign, and the rest had to carry on their 
work among mines and submarines as best they could. 
The ordinary dangers of the sea were, of course, present 
as before ; but owing to the removal of the lightships, and 
the dowsing of innumerable shore lights, the absence of 
buoys, and the introduction of new channels and routes, 
their lot was not made any the easier. 

Inasmuch as the North Sea was the main naval theatre 
of the war, until the submarines started operating off the 
western side of the British Isles, from a strictly naval point 
of view there would have been advantages in forbidding 
any fishing-craft from working in that area. It would 
have certainly made matters easier for the Grand Fleet 
in its periodical sweeps down the North Sea, and it would 
have lightened the duties of the patrols. It must be 
admitted that at the beginning of the war the Navy 
looked upon these craft rather as a nuisance ; but when 
it was found that these trawlers were the means of dis- 
covering unsuspected mine-fields, they were regarded in 
a very different light. 

Once definite conclusions had been reached as to the 
usefulness of the fishermen, the craft had to be pro- 
tected in some way. It was the Navy's duty to see 
that this was done, but that meant detaching vessels 
from purely offensive operations. During the summer 
of the year 1915 the losses of both steam and sailing 
fishing-craft were very heavy, and insurance rates soared 
up. In August the question was again raised as to whether, 
from the naval point of view, it was desirable to allow these 


vessels to continue their fishing. The whole matter was 
carefully investigated by the Admiralty afresh. Admiral 
Ballard, who was commanding most of the East Coast area, 
stated very truly that fishing-trawlers were keenly on the 
lookout for anything suspicious and offered considerable 
obstacles to the free navigation of enemy submarines. 
Every trawl, warp, or drift net was a potential source of 
trouble, and in at least one case a U-boat got her periscope 
foul of a trawler's wire and was thrown on her beam ends. 
The Dutch fishing- fleets were still allowed to work in the 
North Sea, and if British fishing-fleets were withdrawn, 
it would mean that we should require at least 150 more 
armed patrols. 

At this time the total number of trawlers fishing off 
the East Coast was about 350, most of which belonged 
to the Humber. The Hull fleet was under the control 
of a fishing " Admiral," and every morning fish-carriers 
met the vessels at sea and took the fish to London ; 
otherwise trawlers fished independently. The obvious 
solution of the difficulty was some sort of control over 
these fleets under Admiralty organisation. This Admiral 
Jellicoe advocated. Both he and Commodore Tyrwhitt 
were in favour of allowing the trawlers to continue fishing. 
But the regulation and control of their movements were 
not easy, though eventually the difficulties were sur- 
mounted. For the present it was clear that the advantages 
of maintaining fishing-fleets at sea were sufficient to war- 
rant the insurance of these vessels at a premium lower than 
what would be justified from the purely financial point of 
view, and this was the decision to which the Admiralty 
came in the middle of October. In the year 1917 a really 
satisfactory system was introduced, by which these vessels 
fished together in groups under Naval control, a sufficient 
number in each group being armed at least to enable some 
sort of fight to be put up with any submarine that came 
along ; one of the trawlers was also fitted with wireless. 
This meant commissioning the trawlers and placing them 
under the command of the Senior Naval Officers of their 
respective ports and they thus became, in fact though not 
in name, part of the Auxiliary Patrol. But this evolution 
took time, and it was only as the result of many hardly 
learned lessons that it came about. 



If an adequate conception is to be formed of the manner 
in which the Mercantile Marine supported the national 
effort by sea and by land in the early days of the war, some 
account must be given of the movement of troops oversea. 
The transport of war is the merchant ship of peace, usually 
a passenger vessel when the change of status occurs ; 
the crew of merchant officers and men remains. It was 
not the policy of this country to support a separate and 
distinct transport service, though it could use its army, 
apart from the needs of home defence, only if it had facili- 
ties for moving it by sea. Reliance was placed on the 
authority of the Admiralty to requisition whatever tonnage 
was required for the movement of troops when the emer- 
gency arose. 

The army of an island Power, the axis of a maritime 
Empire embracing nearly one-quarter of the land surface 
of the globe, is dependent for movement upon merchant 
shipping, and for protection while afloat the heavily laden 
transports must rely upon the Navy confronted with many 
other duties. As events were to show, the enemy con- 
ducted his operations below the surface as well as on 
the surface. In that respect, as well as in others, the 
transport movement, which began in August 1914, differed 
from anything which had been attempted before. 

The mobilisation of the military forces on August 4th 
brought into operation, under conditions which it had 
been impossible to foresee in anything approaching com- 
pleteness, the plans for transport oversea, which had been 
prepared by the Admiralty in consultation with the War 
Office. The interdependence of naval and military policy 
was speedily demonstrated in a manner of which the public 
generally had no knowledge at the time, for, after the 
British ultimatum had been dispatched to Germany, 



complete secrecy was observed as to the naval and military 
arrangements which were speedily carried out in order to 
put the British Empire on a war footing. The silence 
suggested that the country had been caught unprepared ; 
but behind the fog of war a transport movement was 
inaugurated, unparalleled in character and extent in the 
history of any country. The reorganisation of the British 
Army, which had been in progress from 1902 down to the 
opening of the war, suddenly, though not unexpectedly 
to the departments concerned, reacted on naval conditions, 
and within a few weeks a large number of merchant ships 
were engaged in a great transport movement, world-wide 
in its extent, in face of the undefeated naval forces of the 
second greatest sea Power in the world. 

The oversea transport of large military forces calls for 
the closest co-operation between naval and military depart- 
ments, and demands, perhaps, a higher degree of technical 
efficiency in all the elements concerned than any other 
operation of war, particularly if the movement is carried 
out in face of an enemy fleet which has not revealed its 
intentions. The operation is facilitated when the soldiers 
can be disembarked on a friendly shore, but even in that 
case there remain the perils of the oversea passage, the 
imminence of which so impressed many British seamen 
that, down to the summer of 1914, it was an axiom, accepted 
by many high authorities, that troops should not be 
moved by sea until the enemy's naval forces had been 
either defeated or definitely thrown back on the defensive. 
In the early days of August 1914 the strategic policy to 
be adopted at sea by the enemy was undisclosed, but 
British merchant seamen, placing complete reliance on 
the sufficiency and efficiency of the British Fleet, co- 
operated in the great transport movement with singleness 
of purpose, confidence in the adequacy of the arrangements 
for their safe passage, and complete subordination of 
their own interests to the interests of the State. 

Many expeditions across the sea had been carried out 
since the close of the Napoleonic struggle, but, down to 
the South African War, in only four instances had the 
number of troops been considerable. The French dis- 
patched on the short voyage to Algeria in 1830 37,000 
infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and a proportionate number of 
guns ; for the invasion of the Crimea in 1854 the forces 


of the Allies numbered about 53,000 men ; the army of the 
Potomac, which was transported from Washington to 
Fort Monroe in 1861, was relatively a small one ; and 
for the British expedition to Egypt in 1882 85,720 officers 
and men were landed at Alexandria, Ismailia, and Suez. 
During the South African War, 1899-1902, 396,021 officers 
and men were carried to South Africa from the British 
Isles, India, and the Colonies, but that movement was 
spread over a period of two years and eight months. The 
first orders for the reinforcements were on a small scale, 
and were carried out slowly. 

" The decision to reinforce the British troops in Natal 
was arrived at by the Cabinet on the 8th of September. 
More than a month later, October 12th, the first shot was 
fired ; but not till six weeks after the decision to reinforce 
did units from home begin to leave the country, and these 
troops had to travel more than 7,000 miles before they 
could affect the situation at the front. At this crisis 
the whole force available at home was dispatched. It 
consisted of two battalions of infantry and a brigade 
division (three batteries) of field artillery." ^ 

At the close of the South African War, steps were taken 
to remodel the army, and these measures reacted on the 
transport arrangements. It was originally proposed to 
provide a " striking force " of 80,000 men, and plans were 
considered for organising the necessary sea transport 
on that basis. After Lord Haldane became Secretary of 
State for War, an Imperial General Staff was developed, 
the oversea force was further expanded to 164,000 officers 
and men, and the watchword of the new military regime 
was " quick mobilisation." It was realised that the 
value of the Expeditionary Force would depend largely 
on the rapidity with which it could be mobilised and 
embarked for oversea passage. The plans of the military 
authorities having been prepared and tested, as far as that 
was possible, it rested with the Transport Department of 
the Admiralty to complete the scheme by providing 
adequate and suitable transport for the troops as soon as 
they reached the water side, thus avoiding delay. 

1 The Army in 1906, by the Rt. Hon. H. O. Arnold Foster, late Secretary 
of State for War. 


A country which embarks upon an aggressive war can 
fix the date for the declaration of the opening of hostihties, 
and lay its plans many months ahead, drawing up a 
schedule for the mobilisation and transport of troops. 
A Power which acts on the defensive is necessarily at a 
disadvantage. But, apart from the uncertainty as to 
when the ships, ordinary merchant ships engaged in 
peaceful trading, would be required, the difficulties asso- 
ciated with British military transport in 1914 were not 
lessened by the necessary absence of full knowledge in 
preceding months of the part which the British Army 
might have to take in war, whether in defending oversea 
portions of the Empire or in supporting the French Army 
on the Continent. 

In the years before the opening of the war, the Govern- 
ment had definitely refrained from giving a pledge of 
military support to France. But on August 3rd, 1914, the 
Minister for Foreign Affairs stated, in the course of a speech 
in the House of Commons, that for many months previously 
" conversations had taken place between the chief naval 
and military experts of Great Britain and France with a 
view to joint action if the necessity should arise." On 
this occasion the Foreign Minister read a letter which he 
had addressed to the French Ambassador on November 
22nd, 1912, in proof that " these conversations were not 
binding on the freedom of either Government." In that 
letter, in the terms of which the French Government 
concurred, the Foreign Minister stated : " I agree that 
if either Government have grave reasons to expect an 
unprovoked attack by a third Power or something which 
threatens the general peace, it should immediately discuss 
with the other whether both Governments should not act 
together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and 
if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in 

That, as the Foreign Minister pointed out, was the start- 
ing-point for the Government when the crisis developed 
in the summer of 1914. " The Government," he declared, 
"remain perfectly free." He added that "the Triple 
Entente was not an alliance but a diplomatic group," 
and " we do not construe anything which has previously 
taken place in our diplomatic relations with other Powers 
in this matter as restricting the freedom of the Government 


to decide what action it should take now or restricting the 
freedom of the House of Commons to decide what their 
action shall be." It was in these political circumstances 
that the plans for the transport of British military forces 
in the event of war had to be prepared. The point is of 
some importance, since it illustrates the embarrassments 
which an uncertain outlook in the diplomatic field, in 
association with a defensive policy, may throw upon 
public departments, which in case of failure must be pre- 
pared to accept censure. 

The transport of the British Army must always be of a 
complicated character, owing to the responsibility for 
garrisoning oversea bases, and the necessity of keeping a 
large force of British troops in India. The Army Estimates 
for the financial year 1914-15 made provision for 727,232 
officers and men, besides 75,987 British troops on the 
Indian establishment. That aggregate included the 
Regular Forces, the Army Reserve, the Special Reserves, 
the Militia, and the Territorial Force. The Regular Army 
was distributed between Home and Foreign stations as 
follows : 

At Home. 



Cavalry Regiments 




R.H.A. Batteries 




R.F.A. Batteries . 




Mountain Batteries. 




Garrison Artillery Companies 




R.E. Companies 




Guards Battalions . 




Infantry Battalions 




The Indian Army establishments consisted of 2,751 
officers and 161,081 other ranks, with 35,700 Reservists. 
In addition, there were an Indian Volunteer Force, con- 
sisting of Europeans and Anglo-Indians, of about 1,500 
officers and 37,000 other ranks, and about 20,000 Imperial 
Service Troops. Each of the British Dominions also 
possessed the nucleus of a military force. 

Immediately war was declared, the predominant problem 
was how the varied and not inconsiderable, if, in some 
respects, untrained, military resources of the Empire could 
be best utilised for the defence of the world-wide Empire 


itself against possible dangers and for the promotion of the 
Allied cause. The impression, current at the outbreak of 
war, that the Merchant Navy became responsible only 
for the movement of the Expeditionary Force to France 
was based upon a misapprehension, both of the prepara- 
tions which had been made by the Transport Department 
of the Admiralty, and of the plans which Lord Kitchener 
drew up on taking office as Secretary of State for War on 
August 5th for the redistribution of the military forces of 
the Empire. The Secretary of State for War accepted the 
transport arrangements which had already been made for 
carrying the Expeditionary Force across the Channel, and 
he conceived a further plan of imperial mobilisation which 
threw upon the Merchant Navy a greatly increased and 
unexpected burden. Finally, after consultation between 
the Mother Country and the Dominions, the Dominion 
authorities prepared plans for bringing considerable bodies 
of newly raised troops from Canada, Australia, and New 
Zealand, further increasing the responsibilities of the 
Mercantile Marine as well as the Royal Navy. In effect, 
Lord Kitchener determined, while throwing the Expedi- 
tionary Force on the Continent, to carry out a " general 
post " of the military forces of the Empire, involving a 
widespread movement of transports crowded with officers 
and men in all the seas and oceans of the world at a time 
when the enemy fleets were still undefeated. 

The power of moving armies across the sea was a deciding 
factor in the victory of the Allied and Associated Powers 
in the Great War. The problem presented two difficulties : 
(1) ensuring the security of the troops in transit against 
danger from enemy surface craft, submarines, and sub- 
marine mines, and (2) the provision and handling of 
shipping to accommodate the military personnel, animals, 
vehicles, and stores of all kinds required for military use. 
The first problem was one for the Navy, and this important 
phase of naval strategy is dealt with elsewhere. ^ It is 
proposed to deal here with the part taken by the British 
Mercantile Marine in overcoming the second difficulty, the 
provision and handling of shipping and the essential 
auxiliary services. 

By the last month of the war about 520 British vessels, 
ranging from ships of 500 tons gross to the largest passenger 

^ Naval Operations, by Sir Julian Corbett. 
II— 7 


liners, were being employed on British military services. 
Their tonnage was about 1,750,000 gross, and that repre- 
sented approximately the average amount of tonnage 
continuously devoted to this service throughout the war, 
excepting in the very early stages when the armies operating 
overseas were smaller, and less tonnage sufficed to meet 
their requirements. A very important principle to be 
borne in mind when deciding upon an oversea military 
operation is that it is not only a question of providing 
tonnage once for all for the actual troop movements ; 
there must always be an aftermath of demands for trans- 
port of stores, ammunition, and reinforcing drafts in one 
direction, and of sick and wounded, and maybe prisoners 
of war, in the other. The proportion of tonnage required 
for these purposes depends upon the nature of the military 
forces employed, of the character of the operations upon 
which they are engaged, and upon the nature of the 
theatre of war in which they are to operate. There is 
much to be learned from the numbers of men and weights 
of stores transported from a land base to and from an army 
in the field by railways, motor lorries, horsed wagons, 
and other forms of land transport. This information, 
which has an important bearing upon land strategy, does 
not, however, come within the scope of this history. We 
are, however, concerned with another aspect of the matter. 
After an army has been landed at an oversea base, the 
responsibility for maintaining this constant stream of 
traffic across the sea falls upon the Mercantile Marine, 
which links up the oversea army with the home country. 
In such circumstances the commanders of an insular 
army are as dependent upon shipping for their strategy 
as they are upon railways and other forms of land transport. 
The military strategist handling an army in a peninsula 
or other theatre of war with a large proportion of coast- 
line can sometimes take advantage of sea command to 
change his base of operations ; he can thus shorten his 
lines of communications and alter their direction. Acting 
on these principles in the Peninsular War, Wellington, 
commanding a comparatively small military force, changed 
his base from Lisbon to Santander and other ports on the 
north coast of Spain. In the Egyptian War of 1882 the 
British base was changed suddenly from Alexandria to 
Ismailia. Kuroki, in the Russo-Japanese War, would 


have been unable to advance through Korea from Chemulpo 
to the Yalu had it not been for constant changes of 
base to other more northerly places on the coast, and 
history affords many similar examples. It is doubtful 
whether the British Army could have intervened in the 
first battle of the Marne had it not been for the help of 
the Mercantile Marine in the change of base from Havre 
to St. Nazaire and Nantes on the River Loire, to which 
important operation special reference must be made later. 
A just appreciation of the services which the Mercantile 
Marine rendered in the transport of troops can be formed 
only in the knowledge that by land and sea, lines of com- 
munication for armies reveal the same principle ; the 
longer the line, the greater the amount of transport 
required in proportion to the strength of the army. 
Although the actual amount of tonnage per man and 
horse may be the same for the troops actually transported, 
the number of ships required for subsequent services in- 
creases enormously with the distance of the oversea theatre 
of war from the home base. The operations in France 
and Flanders were vastly more economical in shipping 
and protective measures than the operations in distant 

(a) The Expeditionary Force to France (B.E.F.) 

As has been indicated, the only operation for which 
it had been possible to make preparations, and those 
of a tentative character, was the transport of the 
original British Expeditionary Force across the Channel. 
When the emergency occurred, it was only necessary to 
bring the scheme up-to-date, to ascertain the names of 
vessels available in home waters at the time, and to 
introduce a few amendments necessitated by original over- 
estimates of the capacity of the French harbours for 
handling the traffic with sufficient speed. Orders were 
issued on August 5th, 1914, for the scheme to be put into 
execution. It was at first intended that August 7th 
should be the first day of embarkation, but ultimately 
the date was fixed as August 9th. The original plan 
provided for the embarkation of six divisions, cavalry and 
line of communication troops, but two divisions (the 4th 
and 6th) were taken out of the scheme when the order to 


embark was issued. The 4th Division was subsequently 
reinstated on the hst and began to embark on August 22nd, 
and fought at Le Cateau on the 26th ; and the 6th Division, 
from Ireland, was transported to England and conveyed 
to France on September 8th and 9th. The Merchant Ser- 
vice rose to the occasion so well that the necessary trans- 
ports were ready, as a rule, the day before they were required, 
although in some cases the necessary refitting of vessels 
for the carriage of men and horses occupied from two to six 
days. As the embarkation proceeded, it was found to be 
possible to expedite the programme. The moves originally 
fixed for the 13th day were carried out on the 12th day, 
and those for the 14th on the 13th day. In other respects 
the embarkation followed exactly the lines originally laid 
down. In actual experience the military were in charge 
of the troops, equipment, etc., until the wharves were 
reached. The Navy's responsibility began when the troops 
were on board and ended when they had been landed on 
the overseas wharves. 

Up to August 23rd the troops and military resources 
were landed at Boulogne, Le Havre, and Rouen. From that 
date until August 31st at Le Havre and Rouen. Then came 
the change of base, of vital importance to the British war 
strategy, to which reference has already been made. 
Between August 31st and September 16th the disembarka- 
tion ports were St. Nazaire and Nantes on the River Loire. 
From September 16th, owing to the more favourable situa- 
tion resulting from the first battle of the Marne, the service 
to Le Havre and Rouen was partially resumed. 

Southampton was the principal port of embarkation for 
troops. The following table shows the numbers embarked 
at English and Irish ports between August 9th and 
September 21st : 



Other Ranks. 


Nursing Sisters 
and Civilians. 

Newhaven . 
Avonmouth . 
Devonport . 
Dublin . . ( 
Belfast . . } 
Queenstown . . [ 



















These figures give some idea of the strain brought upon 
the British Mercantile Marine to meet the demand for 
transference of the Expeditionary Force to France. In 
addition to personnel and horses, 93,364 tons is a minimum 
estimate of the amount of ammunition, stores, vehicles, 
etc., carried to the same destination for the Army, distri- 
buted as follows : Ammunition for guns : 3,984 tons, for 
small arms 2,185 tons ; food : 31,509 tons ; forage : 
21,364 tons ; petrol : 1,006,462 gallons ; vehicles : 12,162 
tons ; stores : 25,080 tons. These figures were dwarfed 
by the vast amount of tonnage occupied for military pur- 
poses when the large new armies took the field on the 
Western Front and in other theatres of war ; when ex- 
penditure of ammunition was on a scale undreamed of, 
and trench stores, new weapons, and tanks were intro- 
duced ; but the figures serve as a useful corrective to the 
prevalent idea that sea transport of armies is a simple 
matter of embarking and disembarking personnel and 

The general allocation to various ports of embarkation 
had been arranged as follows : — Southampton, Dublin, 
Glasgow, Queenstown, Belfast, and Jersey : troops and 
horses ; Newhaven : stores ; Liverpool : mechanical 
transport and frozen meat ; Avonmouth : mechanical 
transport and petrol ; London : stevedores ; Devonport ; 
Siege Brigade ; Dover : Naval Brigade. 

On the first day (August 9th) six transports, with a 
total of 5,361 tons gross, left. The numbers varied during 
the period, the maximum number being reached on 
August 14th (forty-four vessels, gross tonnage 154,361), 
and the maximum tonnage on August 16th (thirty-nine 
vessels, gross tonnage 171,188). On the last day of the 
period, September 20th, six transports, of a total gross 
tonnage of 43,409, left. The movements were worked 
on the ferry system, the same vessels doing from a single 
voyage up to nine voyages during the period ; the whole 
movement was completed in 570 trips, and the ship-tonnage 
clearing from the ports totalled 2,241,389 tons gross. 
The daily average of sailings was thirteen vessels, of 52,125 
gross tonnage. 

As typical of the zeal with which the personnel of the 
Merchant Service worked to keep the programme up to 
time, and so contribute to the success of our army in the 


field, one incident may be mentioned. When sudden 
orders were received to evacuate Le Havre, two Leyland 
liners were at Southampton at No. 47 berth, coaling. 
In the middle of the night orders were given to stop coaling 
and to sail at once to Le Havre. The coaling was stopped, 
but a difficulty occurred in closing the coaling ports, which 
had to be secured by bolts from the outside. The ships' 
officers and engineers went over the side on stages to 
effect this, and, as the ships steamed away into the dark- 
ness, these men could be seen hanging on the ships' sides, 
only a few feet from the water, putting in a few bolts to 
ensure the safety of their ships ; by their action much 
time was saved. 

This leads us to the rapid evacuation of Le Havre, upon 
which the speedy recuperation of our army after the retreat 
from Mons so largely depended. The need to make pro- 
vision for the ordered movements hitherto described had, 
as we have noticed, been foreseen. Owing to the adverse 
military situation, first Boulogne had to be abandoned 
as a port of disembarkation, then Le Havre, the main base of 
the British Army. The order for the evacuation of the 
latter port was received on August 30th. On that day 
about 60,000 tons of military stores were lying on the 
wharves. This immense amount of stores, 21,000 troops, 
and 7,000 horses were conveyed by sea from Le Havre to 
the River Loire by the Mercantile Marine, and as a result 
the British Army, reinforced and re-equipped, was able 
to cross the Marne on September 9th, and continue its 
advance subsequently. By the 16th the transfer had 
been completed. 

It is not easy to find any historic precedent which 
applies to this successful effort. The official history of 
the Egyptian War of 1882 mentions the transfer of a 
base of a much smaller British army from Alexandria 
to Ismailia. The comparison is hardly a fair one, because 
Alexandria was not evacuated, but retained as the main 
base of the army, Ismailia being used as the forward base. 
Moreover, the scale of army equipment was not so lavish 
in those days, and the army itself had not lost heavily in 
guns and stores in a rapid retreat. The official history 
tells us that, although the plans for the change of base 
were completed by August 16th, 1882, and the necessary 
orders issued, matters had not progressed sufficiently for 


operations from Ismailia to commence until September 
9th, twenty-four days, compared with eighteen days when 
the emergency occurred at the beginning of the Great War, 
a result of which a large share of the credit falls upon the 
efforts of the Merchant Service to cope with the emergency. 
It is claimed that over 7,500 tons of stores were cleared 
daily from Le Havre, in addition to 10,000 tons taken from 
Rouen in two days ; 2,000 Belgian troops, with guns and 
2,000 horses, were also cleared from Rouen. An idea of 
the comparative magnitude of the effort can be gleaned 
from the figures for Richborough, a model port of em- 
barkation, after twenty-eight months of work and about 
£1,750,000 in money had been expended upon facilities 
there for loading war-like stores. A report of Lieutenant- 
General Sir H. Lawson, dated October 24th, 1918, stated 
that the average daily shipment of stores at Richborough 
amounted to about 3,000 tons ; the maximum had been 
6,000 tons. 

The navigational difficulties, which w^ere very serious, 
were on the whole successfully surmounted. The ships 
were not in all cases suitable for the ports of the Loire, 
which were not as capable as Le Havre of accommodating 
vessels of large displacements. One vessel, the Inventor, 
described as the most important storeship of all, was the 
largest that had ever reached Nantes. Such heavy ships 
could only come up on the top of the tide, and they had 
to be berthed against an island where the w^ater was 
deepest ; even there they settled and heeled over at low 
tide. The carrying capacity of the Inventor was 10,800 
tons, and her holds were 40 feet deep. She was berthed 
at Nantes late on September 7th and, owing to the poor 
local facilities which existed, it took over ten days to 
clear her holds, in spite of the utmost exertions. Her 
case is referred to in some detail because of an incident 
during her unloading. The incident furnishes an illus- 
tration of the great complication of the question of sea 
transport of military stores, and its influence upon the 
fighting efficiency of armies. 

A small consignment, of about a quarter of a ton, on 
board this vessel, contained the boxes and belts of 
machine-guns urgently required by the fighting troops in 
replacement of losses. This consignment was buried under 
about 10,000 tons of other stores of all kinds. Whether 


this was due to an order given to load the most important 
stores first at Le Havre to avoid capture, or to the original 
stowage of the hold at Southampton, is a matter on which 
no light can be shed. As soon as the change of base from 
Le Havre was ordered, the machine-guns to replace losses 
in the Mons retreat were sent by rail as urgent stores to 
the new advanced base, but they were useless without the 
belts and boxes. These were not found, near the bottom 
of the Inventor'' s cargo, until September 17th, and the urgent 
demands by the Army for machine-guns were consequently 
not satisfied until after long delay. At that period no 
vouchers accompanied ordnance stores to France, and 
there were no supercargoes in charge of them. The in- 
cident in no way reflects upon the Merchant Service, and 
is quoted in order to place on record for future guidance 
that the issue of an action may depend upon the receipt 
in the right sequence at the front of a quarter of a ton of 
technical stores out of the hold of a storeship containing 
nearly 11,000 tons, and difficulties multiply when all 
packages are not clearly marked with the nature of their 
contents. At a later date " convoymen " accompanied 
cargoes, and vouchers came through with the military 

This account of the work done by the Mercantile Marine 
in connection with the transport of the original Expedi- 
tionary Force to France would not be complete without 
a reference to the sudden strain caused unexpectedly by 
the decision to attempt the relief of Antwerp. The move- 
ment of the Royal Marine Brigade to and from Ostend 
in August 1914 was carried out by war-vessels, so is out- 
side the scope of this chapter. We need not pause to 
deal in detail with the transport of the Royal Naval 
Brigade to Dunkirk in September 1914, of the Royal 
Naval Artillery to the same destination in October, and 
of the 7th Division and Naval Division to Belgium, but 
the complication of the service subsequently undertaken 
cannot be over-emphasised. The 7th Division was landed 
at Ostend and Zeebrugge. Transports arrived at Ostend 
on October 7th and 8th, and the landing of troops and 
stores was at once proceeded with. On Saturday, October 
10th, when most of the stores had been landed, orders 
were given to evacuate Ostend in forty-eight hours' time, 
to re-embark all stores, and to make every effort to get 


the ships away to prevent their falHng into the hands of 
the enemy. About twenty-four transports were in the 
port, many of them in the tidal basin, which only about 
six ships could leave on one tide. 

Then the Naval Division, the Marine Brigade, the 
refugees, and Belgian troops began to pour in, and 
owed a deep debt of gratitude to the masters and 
crews of the transports who gave them shelter, hot 
cocoa, and sorely needed food. Refugees and troops 
blocked all approaches. Only comparatively few steve- 
dores could be obtained, twenty-eight on one day and 
seven on another. Practically the whole of the loading 
of British army stores was done by the officers and crews 
of the transports, who put in extraordinarily long hours of 
work, and by British soldiers ; the Belgian cranemen and 
men on the lock-gates also worked continuously without 
reliefs. Amongst the loads were heavy guns, a 9 •2-inch 
weighing thirty-eight tons, two 6-inch, and six 4-7-inch, 
besides two steam tractors and a good deal of ammunition. 
There were no suitable slings, but the transport Artist had 
a spare new wire hawser of which the master (Mr. Mills) 
and his chief officer made use and personally slung the 
steam tractors, thus saving these valuable stores from 
capture, a most noteworthy performance. 

Between October 10th and 13th, 6,000 Naval Division, 
1,000 Belgian wounded, and one shipload of horses, 
carriages, 'and other things belonging to the King of the 
Belgians, were transported from Ostend to England ; 440 
British troops and two shiploads of Belgian stores were 
moved from Ostend to Boulogne; 1,500 Belgian troops 
from Ostend to Cherbourg ; 2,000 Belgian refugees from 
Zeebrugge to Calais and Cherbourg, 1,200 Royal Naval 
forces and 6,000 Belgian wounded from Dunkirk to 
England, 11,000 Belgian troops from Dunkirk to Cher- 
bourg. Between October 17th and 18th 17,900 Belgian 
troops were transported from Dunkirk to Calais, and 3,000 
from Boulogne to Dunkirk. In addition, about 1,000 
Russian refugees from Belgium and England were carried 
to Archangel, and a number of emergency coast moves 
were carried out. Thirty thousand French troops were 
also moved from Le Havre to La Pallice, and 10,000 from 
Calais to Cherbourg, in British ships. 

The scene at Ostend, at the time when the troop move- 


merits were taking place, may be gathered from the 
following account : 

" On October 14th it was announced that the vessels 
sent to Ostend were evacuating refugees at the rate of 
5,000 a day ; a previous report had stated that the roads 
leading to the port were black with refugees flocking 
towards it. The number of these unfortunate people 
awaiting embarkation on October 13th was 20,000, and a 
destroyer escort was requisitioned to protect the crowded 
transports. The Belgian packet-boat helped materially 
in the work of transference across the Channel, assisted 
by the English passenger ships Invicta, Queen, and Vic- 

Zeebrugge port was closed down on October 10th, and 
Ostend on the 14th. Speed had to take precedence of 
organisation, as may be gathered from a report from the 
Naval Transport Officer at Dover on October 15th, that 
" half the refugees that had arrived there were wounded 
soldiers, etc., all mixed up hopelessly." There was un- 
avoidable . overcrowding, and the varied personnel was 
taken to Dover faster than it could be handled there ; 
but the matter was urgent, and the way in which the 
British Merchant Service rose to the occasion and dealt 
with the difficult situation without disaster from marine 
risks or overcrowding earned the highest praise of the 
naval and military authorities. 

At first Belgian pilots were employed to pilot the vessels 
as far as Dunkirk, but owing to the congestion they could 
not get back to Ostend. The navigation of these waters 
is always difficult, and the prevailing foggy weather 
increased the difficulties and risk. Luckily some of the 
transports had Trinity House pilots on board. Any 
master who did not elect to sail without a pilot was given 
one of these, and his ship led a string of three or four 
transports until open waters were reached. The whole 
operation was conducted without mishap, and only one 
vessel, the Coath, an ammunition ship, was delayed near 
Malo-les-Bains, where she was ordered to anchor by a 
French patrol-boat and apparently forgotten. She 
reached Dunkirk two days later. 


(b) The Empire Military Mobilisation ^ 

Having dealt briefly with the sea transport of the 
British Expeditionary Force to France, for which pre- 
parations had been made in pre-war days, and with the 
variation in the plans which occurred, we can now pass to 
the unexpected and unprepared movements of troops which 
threw such a heavy strain upon the Merchant Service in the 
early days of the war. Owing to the doubt which prevailed 
as to whether troops from the self-governing Dominions and 
India would participate with the British Army in a great 
war, no detailed preparations had been made for their 
sea transport, and there had been no study of the influence 
of the withdrawal of British merchant shipping for this 
purpose upon the economic position in Great Britain. 
The point is mentioned to emphasise the serious nature of 
the strain brought to bear upon the Merchant Service in 
meeting the sudden demand for tonnage for troop trans- 
port, while at the same time making every effort to main- 
tain the supply to the British Isles of the food and raw 
material needed by the population. The transports for 
the short cross-Channel movement were worked, as we have 
seen, on the ferry system, and one vessel did as many as 
nine voyages in about three weeks. This conveys some 
measure of the difference in the number of vessels required 
for long voyages occupying several weeks, or even months. 

Lord Kitchener determined to concentrate all the highly 
trained forces of the Empire in France, replacing them by 
less well trained units. It was a bold stroke of policy, 
and its success depended on the efficiency of the transport 
arrangements and the devotion of officers and men of the 
Merchant Service. When the great military mobilisation 
began to take effect, the chief movements were, in sequence 
of the orders received for their execution : (1) August 19th : 
the removal of part of the garrisons of Egypt, Malta, and 
Gibraltar to the United Kingdom ; (2) August 25th : the 
movement of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force ; 
(3) August 29th : the transfer of Territorial troops to Egypt, 
Malta, and Gibraltar ; (4) SejJtember 4th : the movement 
of the first contingent of the Australian Expeditionary 
Force .* (5) September 9th : the movement of the First 
Canadian Expeditionary Force ; (6) September 13th : the 

^ Direct movements to enemy territory are not included in this section. 


dispatch of transports from Egypt to India, and con- 
veyance of Egyptian garrison to England ; (7) September 
23rd : the transfer of Wessex Territorial Division to India ; 

(8) October 10th : the movement of British troops to India ; 

(9) October 14th: the transfer of Home Counties Territorial 
13ivision to India ; (10) November Srd : the movement of 
the second contingents, Australia and New Zealand 
Expeditionary Forces ; (11) November 11th: the transfer 
of Wessex (Reserve) Territorial Division to India, 

We will take these movements in succession in order to 
reflect the character and extent of the burden which was 
thrown on the Mercantile Marine, for they involved the 
use of a great volume of shipping. 

(1) Removal to the United Kingdom of Trooj^s from. Egypt, 
Malta, and Gibraltar.— The grand total of these movements 
amounted to 7,355 officers and men, 711 horses, and 278 
mules. The troops moved from Egypt included 1 cavalry 
regiment, 3 battalions of infantry, 1 battery of R.H.A., 
1 Field Company R.E., and details of the Army Service 
Corps, Veterinary Department, and Ordnance Corps ; 
from Malta 3 battalions of infantry, and details ; from 
Gibraltar 1 battalion of infantry, and details. There 
were also large numbers of women and children at all 
those Mediterranean garrisons. The movement was fore- 
shadowed on August 19th. It was carried out between 
September 13th and October 16th by nine transports, 
with a total gross tonnage of about 80,000. On August 
28th further information was received through the General 
Officer commanding in Egypt that the whole Egyptian 
garrison would eventually be removed excepting a few 
minor details, its place being taken by a Territorial divi- 
sion. Indian troops would require transport from Egypt 
to Marseilles. 

(2) Movement of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. — 
On August 25th notice was received of the approaching 
movement of the original New Zealand Expeditionary 
Force, On August 31st the New Zealand Minister of 
Defence announced that the force was ready to embark, 
and on September 12th that the reinforcements for this 
main force would be ready to follow about six weeks after 
its departure. The first convoy, containing nine transports 
(72,800 tons gross), left Wellington on October 16th, 1914, 
and arrived in Egypt on December 1st. On November 


Ilth provisional arrangements for the dispatch of the 
reinforcements were forwarded to New Zealand. On 
December 12th the Admiralty gave permission for the 
three transports carrying them to steam without escort 
as far as Aden, although enemy cruisers were known to 
be at large. They left on December 14th and arrived in 
Egypt on January 31st, 1915. The strength of the New 
Zealand Expeditionary Force was 7,670 officers and men 
with 3,467 animals, and the reinforcements numbered 
1,971 officers and men wuth 959 animals, and were carried 
in three transports, of about 20,350 tons gross. In addition 
to these troops, 200 Maoris, offered by New Zealand and 
accepted by the Army Council, were transported to Egypt, 
and 147 British Army Reservists were conveyed without 
escort round the Horn, arriving in England on December 

(3) Transfer of Territorial Troops from England to Gibral- 
tar, Malta, and Egypt. — On August 29th a demand was 
received from the War Office for the dispatch of a Terri- 
torial division and 2 regiments of Yeomanry to Egypt, 
an infantry brigade to Malta, and 2 battalions to Gibraltar, 
the estimated total numbers amounting to 490 officers, 
14,372 other ranks, and 363 horses. Thirteen merchant 
vessels were selected to carry the troops, and seven were 
requisitioned for the horses, etc. It was understood that 
the existing garrison of Egypt would be brought to Eng- 
land in these transports, Avhen it was relieved. By Sep- 
tember 4th nineteen vessels (155,500 tons gross) had been 
appropriated. The first of these left Southampton on 
that day, and the last arrived at Alexandria on Sep- 
tember 25th. One vessel, the Grantully Castle, proceeded 
through the Canal to Port Sudan, carrying about 1,900 

(4) Movement of the First Contingent of the Australian 
Expeditionary Force. — On September 4th, 1914, the 
Australian Government sanctioned the requisition of 
detained enemy ships for use as transports, and on Sep- 
tember 5th announced that all the units of the first Aus- 
tralian contingent would be ready to embark within six 
weeks, at the same time representing to the Board of 
Trade that it was important, so far as practicable, that 
the transports should also carry cargo on the voyage to 
England. On September 8th the Admiralty announced 


that by October 7th an escort for the convoy would be 
ready at Fremantle, and that the New Zealand reinforce- 
ments would join the convoy. The Australian Navy 
Office reported on September 9th that twenty-seven trans- 
ports would assemble at St. George's Sound by October 
5th. The Miltiades, conveying British Army reservists, 
left Australia on October 23rd. On November 1st thirty- 
six transports left for Colombo. It had been decided on 
October 26th that the Australian and New Zealand convoy 
should come to England by the Cape of Good Hope route, 
but on November 21st the decision was reached to land the 
contingents in Egypt to complete their training and for 
defence of the country, then threatened by an invasion 
by Turkish troops, Turkey having by this time joined the 
Central Powers. The British Army reservists were to be 
sent on to England. This change in the arrangements 
threw an extra strain upon the Merchant Service, and 
much correspondence ensued about the destination of the 
various vessels unexpectedly liberated by the new scheme 
of disembarkation. The convoys arrived in Egypt on 
December 1st, 1914, without mishap or delay. The only 
adverse incident which occurred was that one transport, 
the Anglo-Egyptian, touched the breakwater at Colombo, 
but the damage was not sufficient to delay the vessel. 
Throughout the course of these unprepared troop move- 
ments, it is noticeable that, although so many merchant 
ships, liners and cargo-vessels were diverted from their 
usual routes, they were handled safely by good seaman- 
ship in harbours with which the captains and crews were 
not familiar. Twenty-eight vessels for troops (gross ton- 
nage 244,500) and fifteen for details, stores, etc., were 
employed to transfer the Australian contingent to Egypt. 
The total military personnel carried numbered 21,429 
officers and men, with 8,000 animals. 

(5) Movement of the First Canadian Expeditionary Force 
across the Atlantic. — This movement of large numbers of 
valuable transports loaded with troops into the war area 
infested with submarines and mines, while sea command 
was in dispute, threw a great strain upon the seamanship 
and resourcefulness of the Merchant Service. The first 
papers on the subject in the transport department are 
dated September 9th, 1914. The arrangements for the 
organisation of the convoys and provision for their safety 


by the Navy are beyond the scope of this history. Secrecy 
was all-important. Quebec was the port of embarkation, 
and subsequently assembly took place in Gaspe Bay. 
The movements of 18,000 -ton vessels of 17- knot speed had 
to be synchronised with those of 3,000-ton vessels with a 
speed of 10 knots. Southampton was first selected as 
the port of disembarkation, and Liverpool was also sug- 
gested. The transport of the First Canadian Division was 
rendered more difficult by its inflated numbers, which 
amounted to 31,200 officers and men and 7,300 horses. 
The convoys left on October 3rd. During the voyage 
many changes were made in the proposed ports of dis- 
embarkation, but finally Devonport was selected. By 
October 15th all the transports, excepting one, the Ma?i- 
hattan, which sailed separately, had reached Plymouth 
Sound, and they had been unloaded on October 22nd. 
In view of the want of previous practice in station- keeping 
between merchant ships of such widely divergent speed 
and size, the safe transport of this heterogeneous convoy 
reflected great credit upon the masters and watch-keeping 
officers of the merchant ships. Thirty-one vessels (total 
gross tonnage 321,000) carried the Canadian troops ; two 
more, with the Newfoundland contingent and a British 
infantry battalion (2nd Lincolnshire) accompanied the 
convoys on October 3rd, and four cargo vessels left 
independently between October 7th and November 7th. 
There were only a few minor claims for damage to trans- 
ports, and only one adverse incident ; some rifles were 
carried on to Glasgow by one of the transports after 
the disembarkation at Devonport. 

(6) Dispatch of Transports from Egypt to India, and 
Conveyance of Egyptian Garrison to England. — On September 
12th the Viceroy of India made representations to the 
War Office on the subject of requirements in transports, 
and it was suggested that the twenty then on their way 
to Egypt with Territorial troops should go on to India for 
use of the military authorities. Between September 26th 
and 28th nine transports were sent on to India from Egypt, 
and one vessel from Marseilles. Four transports (gross 
tonnage 38,240) left Alexandria for England with the 
original Egyptian garrison (strength 78 officers, 3,074 other 
ranks, including 220 natives with 625 animals), on Septem- 
ber 30th, and one transport left Port Sudan, carrying a 


British battalion (1st Suffolk), on October 3rd, arriving 
at Southampton on October 11th. 

(7) Transfer of Wessex Territorial Division to hidia. — 
On September 23rd a demand was received to move this 
division to India, the numbers being estimated at 490 
officers, 14,372 other ranks, and 363 horses. Four trans- 
ports were detained at Southampton for the purpose. 
The troops embarked on October 9th in nine transports, 
total gross tonnage 73,000. Two hundred and twenty- 
naval ratings were sent to Malta in one of the transports, 
the Ingonia, which would otherwise have proceeded empty 
to India. The convoy arrived at Bombay and Karachi 
on November 9th-llth. 

(8) Movement of British Troops from India. — This move- 
ment was initiated on October 10th, 1914. The first group, 
consisting of 5 battalions of infantry, 11 R.F.A. batteries, 
3 R.G.A. heavy batteries, details, and women and children 
(the troops totalling 227 officers and 11,500 men), left 
Bombay on October 16th in seven transports (total gross 
tonnage 62,000) and arrived safely at Plymouth on 
November 16th with the exception of the Dunera, which 
put into Southampton the same day, having run con- 
siderable risk of being torpedoed by submarines on her 
way up- Channel. She was the only transport in the convoy 
not fitted with wireless telegraphy. This need was supplied 
before her next voyage. 

The second group, of 9 battalions of infantry and 2 
R.H.A. and 2 R.F.A. batteries, 3 companies of R.G.A,, 
women, children, and horses (the troops totalling 332 
officers and 11,887 men), left Bombay and Karachi on 
November 19th and 20th in nine transports (total gross 
tonnage 79,700) and arrived at Devonport on December 
22nd. The handling of these loads while on board by the 
Merchant Service engaged in the transport work may be 
judged from the smooth disembarkation of the whole in 
forty hours, which elicited from the admiral of the port the 
expression " admirably carried out." 

The third group of 5 battalions, accompanied by details 
and by very large numbers of women and children, besides 
the personnel of 2 Indian hospital ships and an Indian 
general hospital (the troops totalling 182 officers and 
5,412 men), left Bombay and Karachi on December 9th 
and 10th in seven transports (total gross tonnage 


63,700) and arrived at Avonmouth on January 10th, 

The fourth group, of 1 battahon, with women and 
children (the troops totalHng 52 officers and 1,420 men), 
left Bombay in one transport of 8,092 tons gross and 
arrived at Avonmouth on February 1st. 

The fifth group, with details of numerous regiments left 
behind, women, children, and ordnance stores (the troops 
totalling 33 officers and 651 men), left India on February 
23rd in four transports, of 34,000 tons gross ; two were 
detained in Egyptian waters, one of these, the Ionian, 
being requisitioned for the General Officer Commanding. 
The two sent on, the Caledonia and Aragon, after detention 
at Gibraltar owing to the danger attending upon the full 
moon and possibility of enemy attack, arrived at Avon- 
mouth on March 12th. There was an outbreak of measles 
amongst the children in these ships to add to the worries 
of mothers and officers. Nearly 100 cases occurred, of 
which 75 were in the Caledonia. The remaining transport, 
the Saturnia, ultimately came on to Avonmouth via 

(9) Transfer of Home Counties Territorial Division to 
India. — The first intimation of this move was contained 
in a letter from the War Office dated October 14th, 1914, 
in which the hope was expressed that the division could 
be moved on October 25th. Three days later the number 
of troops was given as 457 officers and 12,112 men, of 
which number 36 officers and 800 men would be dropped 
at Aden. There was serious congestion of shipping at Ply- 
mouth at the time, causing delay in unloading shipping, so 
the port of Southampton was chosen and October 29th was 
the date selected for the convoy to leave. In spite of 
delays due to one transport, the Dilwara, developing a fire 
in her bunkers, and to another, the Corsica?!, grounding 
in Southampton Water, the convoy of ten transports 
(gross tonnage 90,500) left Southampton on September 
29th and 30th. Owing to the political situation in Egypt, 
it was detained there to enable the convoy from India, due 
at Suez on November 18th, to be nearer Egypt. This en- 
abled the Dilwara to join up, and the whole convoy arrived 
at Bombay between December 1st and 3rd. The revised 
numbers carried were 444 officers and 11,838 men. 

(10) Movement of New Zealand Reinforcements, and the 

II— 8 


Second Australian Contingent and Reinforcements. — On 
November 3rd, 1914, transports were requisitioned. On 
November 6th the date of departure was fixed provisionally 
for the middle of December. A hospital ship, the Kyarra, 
sailed on December 14th and the convoy left Albany on 
December 31st, consisting of nineteen transports, of which 
three (gross tonnage 20,350) carried the New Zealand 
reinforcements (strength 1,971), and sixteen (gross tonnage 
149,700) the Australian second contingent and reinforce- 
ments (strength 9,453 officers and men and 4,609 animals). 
The convoy arrived at Suez on January 30th, 1915, at 
which time the attack by the Turks upon the Suez Canal 
was developing. One of the transports, the Themistocles, 
came on to England, calling at Malta to bring 184 details 
to England and at Gibraltar to take on board 392 details. 

(11) Transport of Wessex Reserve Territorial Division to 
India, etc. — On November 11th, 1914, the War Office 
asked for transport to India for the Welsh Territorial 
Division, but the Wessex Reserve Territorial Division 
was afterwards substituted, and the date of dispatch fixed 
as December 12th. Five transports (total gross tonnage 
47,000) were employed. The numbers of troops were 
338 officers and 10,057 other ranks. The vessels arrived 
at Bombay and Karachi between January 4th and 8th, 
1915. The Scottish Women's Hospital, destined for 
Serbia, was dropped at Malta. 

This movement may be said to have completed the 
original military mobilisation of the Empire. 

(c) The Dardanelles Expedition 

The transfer of the British Army to France was, as we 
have seen, an operation for which preparations had pre- 
viously been made. The extemporised arrangements in 
connection with the relief of Antwerp followed. The 
character of the work thrown on the Mercantile Marine 
in these operations can be gathered from the brief details 
which have been given, and some estimate can also be 
formed of the stupendous effort involved in carrying out 
the sea movements required to mobilise and to distribute, 
in the first instance, the military forces and resources of 
the Empire. Details of the tonnage of transports have 
been added as a guide for estimates of the amount of 


shipping required to move military units and drafts 
respectively for long or short voyages, a question of con- 
siderable importance to an island Power, from the point 
of view both of defence and of attack. In order to com- 
plete the detailed account of the movement of the " first 
million," it is necessary to give some account of the initial 
movements entailed by the decision to send troops from 
the United Kingdom to the Mediterranean with an ultimate 
destination in hostile territory, the Gallipoli Peninsula, 
together with some preliminary events leading up to that 

On February 11th, 1915, three transports were requisi- 
tioned to move 2,800 Royal Marines and details from 
Southampton to Mombasa, starting on February 17th. 
Eight hundred men were subsequently deducted from this 
number, and about 220 Artillery and Engineers were 
added. The requisitioning of two of the transports, the 
Alnwick Castle and Dunluce Castle, was cancelled, and 
another— the Grantully Castle — substituted. A further 
demand for one ship to be fitted partly as a hospital ship 
led to the requisitioning of the Grantully Castle being 
cancelled and the Somali and Alnwick Castle (again) being 
taken up, the SomaWs hospital fittings to be erected on 
the voyage out. Some horse-boats and guns were to be 
taken. As an example of the uncertainties with which 
the movement of troops was attended owing to changes 
in the political and military situations, on February 16th 
all these arrangements were cancelled, and it was decided 
to send the Royal Naval Division and the 29th Division 
to the Mediterranean. On February 20th a requisition 
was received for the transport of 7 battalions of the 
Naval Division, and about 8,000 officers and men, to leave 
Avonmouth on February 27th for Lemnos. Thirteen 
transports were employed in this convoy, one of them 
carrying mule transport, one a Naval Air Force unit, and 
four of them stores. Four ships were ordered to leave on 
February 27th, and four on the 28th. 

In connection with this rapid embarkation (which led to 
subsequent delay owing to the packing of the holds of the 
transports), it may be noted that it was not realised that the 
troops embarked were likely to take part at once in an 
opposed landing on a hostile coast. The complication of 
the needs of troops in action or who were likely to be in 


action, as affecting the packing of holds, has already been 
touched upon when dealing with the transfer of base of 
the British Army in France from Le Havre to St. Nazaire 
and Nantes. While the rapid embarkation of the troops 
and stores reflected great credit upon those concerned, 
it may be put on record that extra time spent in 
packing the holds of transports, under expert military 
supervision, if proceeding to a destination in hostile terri- 
tory, may cause delay at the time, but such delay at the 
outset is well repaid subsequently by the saving of time 
and losses in carrying out such a delicate operation as 
landing troops in face of opposition. 

The numbers in the 29th Division were at first estimated 
at 717 officers, 21,971 other ranks, and 6,391 horses ; the 
numbers actually carried were 705 officers, 20,533 men, 
and 6,522 animals. Nineteen transports were employed, 
and five store transports, one, the Inkonka, carrying an 
Air Force unit. The vessels sailed, separately, for 
Alexandria at intervals between February 27th and March 
15th, 1915, arriving on various dates from March 14th 

The 2nd Mounted Division was directed to follow as 
soon as possible after the 29th Division. The approximate 
numbers were 525 officers, 9,470 men, and 9,585 horses. 
No remount ships were available. Nineteen transports 
were appropriated, and the vessels sailed in groups 
between April 8th and 13th, calling at Malta for orders. 
Three transports were kept for subsequent embarkations 
on April 15th, and one transport, with the G.H.Q. signal 
company, was ordered direct to Lemnos. The transports 
began to arrive at Alexandria on April 20th. 

In the meantime twelve transports containing horse- 
boats, fittings, and crews for them, with their rations, had 
been dispatched from Portsmouth singly by coastwise 
route for Alexandria, where they were urgently needed, 
a demand for the transport of 10,000 men of the Australian 
and New Zealand forces from that port on February 27th 
having been received. 

By midnight on March 21st/22nd, 1915, the numbers 
of British Dominion, Colonial, and Indian troops which 
had been transported by sea by the British Mercantile 
Marine amounted to about 1,039,300. This figure repre- 
sents effectives. 137,169 sick and wounded had also been 


carried. Within six months of the declaration of war, 
therefore, well over a million armed combatants of the 
British Empire, with their equipment and stores, had 
been transported across the world's oceans and seas, an 
achievement without precedent in history. Out of the 
first million there were no casualties amongst the troops, 
either from marine risk or from enemy action. When 
the constant transfer of shipping from familiar to un- 
familiar voyages is considered, and account is taken of 
the navigational and the other difficulties, there is no 
need to emphasise the enterprise and organising power of 
British shipowners, or the seamanship, resourcefulness, 
and zeal of the masters and crews. One and all, they 
served the nation well in the hour when it was confronted 
with a situation the gravity of which, in view of many 
unknown factors, it had been impossible fully to foresee. 
Apart from the tentative plans for the transport of the 
Expeditionary Force, the movements by sea of the military 
forces in accordance with the wishes of the War Office 
had to be provided for at a few days' notice. Arrangements 
had to be improvised as each emergency arose, and every 
call which was made on the shipping firms or the crews of 
the ships concerned was met promptly and efficiently. 
No contract, written or implied, existed between the State 
and the Mercantile Marine, but nevertheless the whole 
of its resources, material and personnel, were instantly and 
ungrudgingly placed at the service of the nation. The 
success achieved in face of constantly changing conditions 
by sea and by land was in no small measure due to the 
Naval Transport Department, which requisitioned and 
loaded the ships. And, as has been indicated, the Navy, 
on which devolved the responsibility of protecting the 
transports while on passage in face of undeveloped enemy 
forces, fulfilled its mission. The pride in the transporta- 
tion of the first million troops without the loss of a single 
life is shared by the men who served under the Red and 
White Ensigns. 



The blockade of Germany, which was instituted im- 
mediately after the declaration of war, differed in many 
important respects from the blockade maintained during 
the long struggle with J'rance in the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries, with the result that from 1914 onwards 
merchant ships and merchant seamen w^ere required to 
bear no mean share of the burden. Students are familiar 
with the strain which was imposed upon blockaders in 
the past owing to the uncertainties of wind and sea. In 
the sailing-ship era, although the blockade was maintained 
as close to the enemy's shores as possible, there was no 
guarantee that enemy ships would not escape from port, and 
that incoming ships, favoured by the fortune of wind, would 
not succeed in eluding the vigilance of the blockaders. 
On three occasions the French fleet at Toulon managed 
to escape in spite of Nelson's vigilance, and frigates and 
privateers frequently broke out singly, inflicting heavy 
losses on British merchant vessels. 

During the period which intervened between the close 
of the Napoleonic Wars and the opening of the Great 
War in 1914, it had come to be recognised that the advent 
of the steam engine, the increased range of the high- 
power gun mounted on shore, and the evolution of the 
torpedo in destroyer and submarine had radically affected 
the whole problem of maintaining a blockade. Whereas 
the sailing man-of-war, moreover, was a self-contained 
unit of power, with water and provisions sufficient for 
the needs of the officers and men for a period ranging 
from three to six months, the modern man-of-war had 
become dependent on auxiliaries for food and stores, and 
radius of action was restricted by limited capacity for 
carrying fuel. In these circumstances the blockade of 
Germany was maintained at long range ; the ships of the 




CH. V] BLOCKj^DE difficulties 101 

Grand Fleet were based on Scapa Flow, Cromarty, and the 
Firth of Forth, and from time to time they left harbour 
to carry out what were known as " sweeps " in the North 

Before hostilities opened, the naval authorities had 
realised that forces would be necessary to keep the seas 
in all weathers, acting as the antennae of the Grand 
Fleet and maintaining a constant patrol in order to prevent 
contraband being conveyed into Germany. At first this 
arduous duty was confided to groups of the older cruisers 
of the Navy, but eventually, owing to the unseaworthi- 
ness of these vessels and their restricted fuel capacity and 
to their being required for other services, it devolved 
upon armed merchant ships, which, though commanded 
by naval officers, were manned by seamen of the Mercan- 
tile Marine. Long before the war came to its close the 
active blockade of Germany was being maintained by 
the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, consisting of twenty-five 
large merchant ships, and it may always be a source of 
pride to shipowners, and in particular to the officers and 
men of the Mercantile Marine, that merchant ships bore 
the responsibility which in former days had been dis- 
charged by frigates of the Navy, and that the character 
of the ships, in association with the high standard of 
seamanship of the crews, enabled a more successful 
blockade to be sustained in conditions of great difficulty 
than had been known in any previous war. The significance 
of that success can be appreciated only in knowledge of 
the conditions in which it was achieved. 

There were two channels by which goods might enter 
Germany either direct or by way of the northern countries 
of Europe : one was through the Straits of Dover and 
the other round the north of Scotland. The laying of a 
large mine-field in the extreme southern portion of the 
North Sea compelled all vessels to go through the Downs, 
and thus it was possible to intercept and examine every 
ship which passed up and down the English Channel. 
The problem presented by the northern route was far 
more difficult of solution. The distance from the north 
of Scotland to Iceland is 450 miles, and from Iceland to 
Greenland another 160 miles. Once vessels had passed 
this line and made the coast of Norway inward bound, 
they could proceed to their destinations inside territorial 


waters where they could not be stopped and examined. 
Ships which were outward bound could also take advantage 
of the territorial waters of Norway, and then, favoured by 
darkness, mist, or fog, could make a dash for the Atlantic 
with some confidence of escaping observation unless the 
patrols were numerous and vigilant. The problem set 
to the Northern Patrol, consisting of the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron, became, therefore, one of watching an area of 
over 200,000 square miles, the size of which was somewhat 
reduced during the winter months by ice. The patrol 
was maintained under many difficulties, since the vessels 
had necessarily to work at great distances from their bases 
and, owing to their limited number, were a long way out 
of sight of each other. During the winter, gales are 
almost incessant in this northern latitude, and when the 
wind falls fogs of varying density often shroud the sea. 
Finally, long before the submarine campaign on merchant 
shipping was embarked upon by the enemy systematically, 
submersible craft were engaged in searching for and 
attacking the ships which were maintaining the blockade. 
In these circumstances of danger from the forces of nature 
as well as from the stratagems of the enemy, a relentless 
economic constriction was imposed on Germany. The 
service involved officers and men in hardships with which 
British seamen had for many years been unfamiliar, many 
of the blockading vessels remaining at sea in spite of gales, 
fogs, and submarines for as long as a month or more at a 

On the Saturday before the outbreak of war Rear- 
Admiral Dudley de Chair received orders from the 
Admiralty to mobilise the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, hoisting 
his flag on board the Crescent at Portsmouth. The 
other cruisers chosen to form the Squadron consisted of 
the sister ships Edgar and Grafton, which were also at 
Portsmouth, the Endymion, Theseus, and Gibraltar, 
which were at Devonport, and the Royal Arthur, which 
was at Chatham ; the Hawke, which was also to join the 
Squadron, was refitting at Queenstown. The gunboat 
Dryad was included in the command. The eight cruisers 
were old ships ; they had been laid down under the Naval 
Defence Act of 1889, All of them, except the Gibraltar, 
which was of 7,700 tons, displaced 7,350 tons. When 
new, they had attained speeds somewhat exceeding 19 


knots ; they had a normal coal capacity of 850 tons, with 
a full load of 1,200 tons. The vessels, owing to their age, 
had been relegated to the Third Fleet of the Home Fleets 
before the opening of the war and were provided with 
nucleus crews on the lowest category, provision being 
made to complete the complement mainly from the Royal 
Naval Reserve. The Rear-Admiral commanding, on 
reaching Portsmouth, had without delay to mobilise this 
homogeneous and obsolete group of cruisers and take his 
force to sea in face of the enemy with officers and men 
drawn in the main from the Royal Naval Reserve, and 
therefore consisting mainly of merchant seamen. 

As a result of extraordinary efforts the Crescent, 
Grafton, and Edgar were ready by August 3rd, and 
Admiral de Chair proceeded at once, hoping to be joined 
off Plymouth by the Endymion, Theseus, and Gibraltar. 
In this he M'as disappointed, as these three ships were 
delayed, but, signalling to them to follow with all dispatch, 
he pressed on, passing up the West Coast of England on 
August 4th to Scapa Flow. 

At midnight orders were received to commence hos- 
tilities against Germany, and early on the following 
morning, when off the Mull of Cantire, the first blow against 
the enemy was struck when the Grafton, in accordance 
with the Admiral's orders, chased and captured the 
German s.s, Wilhelm Behrens (750 tons) and sent her into 
Greenock with a prize crew. The German steamer Marie 
Glaeser was also captured by the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
later in the same day off the Isle of Man. On the following 
day the Endymion and Theseus joined the flag at Scapa 
Flow, and late in the same day the Crescent and Edgar 
put to sea, where the Admiral was joined later on by the 
other ships of his command. In accordance with the 
orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, the 
Rear-Admiral proceeded, by way of the westward of the 
Orkneys, to the area allotted to him in his war orders ; 
and thus began the work of patrol which was to be main- 
tained without intermission until January 1918, in face of 
difficulties and hardships which no one at that period 
could have, foreseen. 

Throughout the period of hostilities the embarrassments 
which would in any circumstances have arisen in main- 
taining the patrol were increased owing to the decision 


of the British Government that it was undesirable to 
declare a blockade in accordance with the generally recog- 
nised tenets of international law. It was determined to 
act under Orders in Council, the provisions of which were 
naturally criticised in neutral countries and particularly 
in the United States. For in endeavouring to cut off all 
Germany's supplies, it followed inevitably that the 
neutral States bordering on the enemy's territory suffered 
inconvenience through their traders, who under normal 
conditions carried on an active commerce with the United 
States and other countries on the American continent. 
Though the officers commanding the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron, and the senior officers of the other naval forces 
which co-operated with them during the early period of the 
war, had no concern with questions of international politics 
or law, the existence in the background of controversies 
with other countries demanded that the utmost discretion 
and tact should be exercised in applying economic pressure 
upon Germany. 

In the unparalleled circumstances in which the blockade 
of Germany was instituted, novel forms of procedure were 
evolved as a result of experience, and it soon became the 
established practice to send suspicious vessels into a 
neighbouring port for examination. This procedure was 
the subject of a good many protests on the part of neutrals, 
but it was an inevitable feature of a blockade under modern 
conditions, as it was difficult to open hatches in heavy 
weather without wetting the cargo, and an order to sift 
the cargo to the bottom meant hoisting it all on deck and 
keeping the ship in submarine waters many days — a source 
of danger the neutral ships did not care to accept. 

Experience proved that it was safer and more humane 
in view of the dangers of fog and of storm, apart from the 
activities of the enemy, to take neutral ships into a pro- 
tected port for examination even if the difficulties of 
examination by sea had not been insuperable. Moreover, 
the British method contrasted favourably with that 
adopted by the Germans, who seldom, even in the North 
Sea, attempted to take a suspicious ship, neutral or allied, 
into port, but made it an almost invariable practice to 
sink her at sight, leaving the crew to fare as best they might 
in small boats. The enemy's actions were in striking 
contrast with the orders issued at the beginning of the 


war by the Admiralty. These directed that officers and 
men engaged in blockade work were to treat the captains 
and crews of suspected neutral ships with the utmost 
courtesy and consideration, and to place them and their 
vessel in as little danger or inconvenience as was consistent 
with the efficient maintenance of the blockade. 

At first the work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was 
carried out under conditions of peculiar difficulty. The 
Rear-Admiral commanding had been provided with a 
number of old cruisers with newly mobilised crews ; the 
force had to be transformed into an efficient and well- 
disciplined unit, and provision had to be made for keeping 
the vessels supplied with coal and stores. The Admiral 
had also to consider the problem of securing convenient 
and suitable bases. Over and above all this, the work of 
the Squadron was subject to interruption owing to the 
demands which were made upon it. Early in the month 
of August it was, for instance, required to act as the 
advance screen of the Grand Fleet during a sweep in the 
North Sea ; it steamed four miles ahead of the Grand 
Fleet, the whole force proceeding in the direction of the 
Skagerrak on the lookout for the enemy's fleet. At this 
period, moreover, reports were repeatedly reaching the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet of the proposed 
movement of German men-of-war and armed merchant- 
men, of suspicious happenings in the islands to the north 
of Scotland, as well as of floating mines which often proved 
to be merely fishing-buoys. For these and other reasons 
ships had to be repeatedly detached from the patrol, and 
it proved no easy matter in the circumstances to carry 
out the duties assigned to the Squadron, which, owing to 
the absence of vessels coaling or undergoing repairs, was 
never at its full strength. The Admiral had also to 
improvise a defensive system at Lerwick, guns being 
landed from his squadron to enable the harbour to resist 
an enemy raid. Great anxiety prevailed lest the enemy 
should land a large force on the Shetlands, and on 
several occasions rumours of German transports full of 
troops having passed out of the Baltic were received. 
Provision had also to be made for protecting the sup- 
plies of coal which were being dispatched to the White 
Sea for the use of the Russians. 

By the middle of August the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 


began to undergo a gradual change in its composition, 
which was eventually to lead to its reconstruction. On 
the 18th the armed merchant cruiser Alsatian, one of the 
liners of the Allan Line, joined the flag, and about a week 
later the Mantua reported to the Rear-Admiral for patrol 
duty, and she, again, was joined by the Oceanic before the 
end of the month. The arduous and dangerous character 
of the work which had been assigned the Squadron was 
soon made apparent by a series of untoward incidents. 
On September 8th the Admiral commanding received 
information that the Oceanic was ashore at Hoevdi Grund 
in a dense fog, two and a half miles E. by S. from 
South Ness, Foula Island, in the Shetlands. This liner 
unfortunately became a total wreck, the crew being 
rescued by the Alsatian and landed at Liverpool. 

The arrival of the armed merchant cruiser Teutonic on 
September 20th was a welcome accession to the strength 
of the Squadron, but the anxieties of Admiral de Chair 
were not lessening, for from day to day reports reached him 
of the increasing activity of enemy submarines. That 
the menace to his ships, in spite of the fact that zigzagging 
had become a matter of daily routine, was a real one was 
soon to be proved by an event which robbed the patrol 
of one of its units and resulted in the loss of 560 lives. On 
the afternoon of October 15th the Theseus reported the 
presence of submarines on the patrol line on which she was 
operating in company with the Edgar, Theseus, and 
Hawke. a torpedo had been fired at her, passing astern 
without doing any damage. The senior officer promptly 
ordered all the cruisers to proceed north-west at full speed. 

At that time the Hawke was not in sight. Earlier in the 
morning she had been observed steaming to the south-west 
to examine a steamer, and that proved to be the last that 
was seen of the ship. At 4.30 that afternoon Admiral 
de Chair endeavoured to get into touch with the Hawke 
by wireless, but without result. He immediately reported 
the ominous silence to the Commander-in-Chief of the 
Grand Fleet, and the Swift was directed to proceed from 
Scapa at high speed to search for the Hawke in the 
position from which she had last been reported. Two 
divisions of destroyers were afterwards dispatched from 
Scapa to search for the vessel. On the following day the 
Swift picked up a raft with an officer and twenty men — 


the sole survivors of the Hawke, which, it was then learnt, 
had been sunk by a submarine. 

Within a short time of the raft being sighted, the 
Swift herself was attacked by one or more submarines 
while engaged in her work of rescue, several torpedoes 
being fired at her. It was only with great difficulty that 
the Swift, manoeuvring at high speed amid the wreckage, 
with destroyers screening her, succeeded in rescuing these 
survivors. In spite of the danger in which he stood. 
Captain Charles T. Wintour remained on the scene of the 
disaster until he was satisfied that there was no one else 
to be picked up. 

The loss of the Hawke convinced the Commander- 
in-Chief of the Grand Fleet that these large and old 
cruisers were being risked unduly by employment without 
destroyers in the central part of the North Sea. It was 
decided, therefore, to withdraw the ships to a better 
strategic position to the northward and eastward of the 
Shetland Islands, the smaller craft being directed to watch 
the Fair Island Channel and the Pentland Firth approaches 
to the North Sea. At the same time it was arranged that 
the Battle Fleet, when possible, should be kept to the 
westward of the Orkneys, forming at once a support for 
the cruisers and a second blockade line, or that it should 
cruise to the north and east of the Shetland Islands with 
its destroyer screen, the cruisers patrolling farther south. 

As the winter closed in reports from the patrols indicated 
that the cruisers of the Edgar class were ill-fitted for the 
arduous sea work that had been assigned to them, particu- 
larly as in chasing suspicious merchant vessels it was often 
necessary that their old boilers and engines should be hard 
pressed. Frequent gales with high seas running also 
contributed to the conviction that the vessels were un- 
suited for patrol duties in these latitudes. On October 
29th the Grafton reported that her main condenser was 
leaking, that her funnels were showing signs of weakness, 
and that it was feared that the copper expansion ring at 
the back of the port high-pressure slide was fractured. 
On the same day, during a combined movement to cut off 
a suspicious steamer, the Theseus signalled that she had 
broken down and had had to ease steam owing to engine 
defects. In spite of these misfortunes this steamer, which 
proved to be the Bergensjiord, was captured by the 


Endymion. She had on board the German Consul- 
General from Seoul, Korea, together with six German 
stowaways. She was on passage from New York to 
Bergen with mails and passengers and general cargo, and 
a quantity of crude rubber and copper. The ship was 
sent into Kirkwall for examination. On the following 
day the troubles of the Squadron were increased, when 
the Endymion reported serious defects, and the Crescent 
also was experiencing mechanical troubles. Early in 
November the Grafton, which had already developed 
engine defects, had to leave the patrol for five days, owing 
to a number of rivets connecting the furnace and combus- 
tion chamber in one of her boilers becoming loose. She 
was followed the next day into port by the Endymion, 
with several perforations in the inner bottom over the 
feed tank. 

Confronted with these difficulties, Admiral de Chair, 
in spite of heavy seas and strong wind, struggled to 
maintain the patrol as best he could. On November 
11th, the Edgar having developed engine defects, the 
Admiral proceeded with his depleted force to take up the 
work of the northern patrol once more, when he encoun- 
tered a storm to the west of the Shetlands which led even- 
tually to the decision to withdraw all these old cruisers 
from this arduous work. The sea conditions were such 
that the Squadron had to heave to owing to the fierceness 
of the gale. During the forenoon heavy seas swept over 
the fore part of the Crescent (flag-ship), wrecking the 
fore bridge, sweeping overboard the Admiral's sea cabin, 
carrying away the ventilating cowls of the foremost stoke- 
holds — a considerable amount of water passing downwards 
and putting the fires out — breaking hammock nettings, 
seriously damaging the port cutters, besides removing 
bodily a whaler, and tearing away hawser reels and deck 
fittings owing to the rotten state of the woodwork. The 
Edgar lost an able seaman, who was swept overboard, 
and a cutter was damaged. She also sustained other 
injuries. The Theseus, which was nearer under the lee 
of the Shetland Islands, suffered less seriously. After 
temporary repairs had been effected to the Crescent at 
Swarbacks Minn, Rear-Admiral de Chair proceeded to 
Scapa Flow. 

On arrival he was informed by the Commander-in- 

CH. V] 



Chief that it had been decided to send half the ships 
of his squadron to the Clyde Yard for refit. A few 
days later conferences were held with the Admiralty 
officials as to the amount of work which was to be done 
in the Crescent, Royal Arthur, and Grafton. The 
whole work was to be completed by December 7th. In the 
meantime, however, the future of the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron was reviewed by the Admiralty, and on Novem- 
ber 20th it was decided that the seven Edgar cruisers, 
whose unfitness for the work of the patrol had been fully 
demonstrated, should return at once to their home port 
and pay off. The experiment of utilising these old ships 
had not succeeded, and in light of the experience which 
had already been gained with armed merchant cruisers, 
possessing good sea-keeping qualities, it was determined 
to reconstitute the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. 

Rear- Admiral de Chair hoisted his flag in the Alsatian, 
at Liverpool, on December 4th, in command of his new 
force, which it was arranged should consist of the following 
twenty-four armed merchant cruisers : 

Alsatian (Flag) 

Eskimo . 




Hilary . 



Cedric . 

Orotava . 

Clan Macnaughton 

Digby . 

Otway . 


Patuca . 

Bayano . 









Re-arming with 6- inch guns at Liverpool. 

-Fitting out at Liverpool. 

-Fitting out at London. 

■Fitting out at Avonmouth. 

Fitting out at Hull. 
Fitting out on the Tyne. 
Fitting out on the Clyde. 

-On the Northern Patrol. 

Was employed on special service proceeding to 
west coast of Africa, with orders to join Admiral 
de Chair's flag on her return. 

For the time being, though other naval forces were being 
temporarily pressed into the service, the blockade of the 


enemy was somewhat relaxed. The presence at sea of 
the reconstituted Tenth Cruiser Squadron was urgently- 
necessary, but unfortunately the work of fitting out was 
subject to repeated delays, partially due to recurrent 
labour troubles. At Liverpool, as well as at London 
and Avonmouth, constant pressure had to be exerted by 
the commanding officers and the officers superintending 
the work on board. The first ship to be completed was the 
Cedric, which was finished on December 11th, but it was 
not until January 16th that the Motagua was ready for sea. 
The change in the character of the Squadron also involved 
a great many alterations in the administration. One of 
the most difficult problems was connected with coaling, 
and a roster had to be established to enable the ships to 
proceed in proper rotation to Liverpool or Glasgow for 
this purpose. On passage to the Mersey and Clyde, it was 
recognised that they were exposed to the considerable 
risk of being torpedoed. This disadvantage had to be 
accepted. Owing to the many demands which were then 
being made upon the light craft of the Navy, it was impos- 
sible to provide an escort at any stage of the voyage. 
That losses were not incurred was due largely to the fine 
spirit exhibited by officers and men, and to the sense of 
discipline and esprit de corps which was rapidly developed 
under very unusual conditions. For the personnel of the 
Squadron consisted only of a leavening of naval officers 
and men accustomed to the naval routine, and for the rest 
the crews consisted of ratings of the Royal Naval Reserve 
and the Mercantile Marine, in addition to the small 
number of men of the Royal Fleet Reserve. The higher 
signal ratings were drawn from the Navy, and these were 
assisted by Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve men. The 
wireless installations were in charge of naval ratings, 
largely reinforced by Marconi operators. The ships were 
under the command of naval officers, but for navigational 
purposes the masters, accustomed to handling them, were 
in most cases retained, together with a large proportion 
of the other mercantile officers. Among the crews were 
a large number of men who had served in the ships under 
peace conditions, and the commanding officers, realising 
the ordeal to which these merchant seamen were submit- 
ting with splendid devotion, adopted every possible 
measure to ameliorate the conditions in which they lived. 


In such large passenger ships as had been requisitioned 
for patrol duty, the provision of ample cabin space is 
generally recognised as of the first importance if the 
vessels are to be run at a profit, and consequently the 
quarters of the crew are often cramped and uncomfortable. 
The men under peace conditions are at sea only for a 
comparatively short period, and find compensations for 
the discomforts experienced afloat during their frequent 
periods of relaxation ashore. The patrol service on which 
these ships were engaged involved, on the other hand, 
lengthy periods at sea under exceptionally arduous con- 
ditions, and it was found feasible to increase the accom- 
modation of the men and to improve the amenities of life. 
A special effort was made to minister to the comfort of 
the firemen. Under ordinary conditions of service, the 
fireman of the Mercantile Marine seldom troubled to 
change his clothes, although the Board of Trade regula- 
tions require that washing facilities shall be provided. 
During a cross-Atlantic trip many of these men are con- 
tent to sleep in the clothes in which they work, and 
owing to the state of their bedding at the end of the 
voyage, it is frequently burnt. The captains of the ships 
of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron saw to it that every 
facility was provided to encourage the men to wash and 
to shift into clean rig as soon as their work was done. 
It became the aim of the officers, in short, to introduce 
naval routine, which meant that the men were shifted 
into clean rig after each spell of work, and were en- 
couraged to make the most of their leisure time. In 
addition to improved living-quarters, they were given 
an airy smoking-room in each vessel. In the Alsatian 
this smoking-room became one of the " show places " 
in the ship, and the men exhibited great pride in its 
cleanliness and decoration. 

The conditions under which patrol was maintained at 
the turn of the years 1914-15 is reflected in the diary 
of the Admiral commanding : 

" Tuesday, December 29th. — Left ' A ' Patrol in Alsatian 
and proceeded south of Faeroe Islands to ' B ' Patrol in 
order to get into touch with Cedric and Hildebrand. 
Calyx searched for mine (probably one of those laid off 
Tory Island) reported west of Hebrides. Information 
II— 9 


was received of arrival of Teutonic at Liverpool and 
sailing of Viknor from Tyne. 

" Wednesday, December 30th. — Wind from S.S.W. back- 
ing to S.S.E., force 7 and squally, heavy sea, but several 
neutral steamers were intercepted by Squadron. It was 
too rough to board, but ships were taken under lee of the 
land and prize crews put on board. They were then sent 
in to Kirkwall. Calyx was ordered to Liverpool to coal. 

" Thursday, December Slst. — Wind still southerly, blow- 
ing hard, hail and snow squalls, heavy sea. Eleven 
ships on patrol ; five coaling and four not yet joined. 
Ships at Tilbury and Avonmouth still delayed by labour 
disputes and strikes. 

" Friday, January 1st, 1915. — Heavy gale from south, 
backing to south-east. Glass fell to 28-50° ; very heavy 
sea. Detached Virginian to patrol north of Iceland to see 
if shipping were passing that way, and also to report if 
passage were blocked with ice. Mantua patrolling passage 
between Iceland and Faeroes. Alsatian reinforced ' C ' 
Patrol as Otway was escorting ships to Kirkwall. Hilary 
was ordered to stand by dismantled Norwegian sailing- 
ship till gale moderated. 

" Viknor joined ' B ' Patrol, but owing to damage sus- 
tained in gale, had to take shelter in Burra Sound. 

" Impressed the importance of armed merchant cruisers 
of not interfering with neutral ships' colours, and also of 
treating them with courtesy. 

" Saturday, January 2nd. — Wind in south-east, force 9, 
heavy sea. Glass fell to 28-10°. Hilary reported that at 
1.15 a.m., while towing Norwegian barque Marietta, which 
had been dismasted, the vessel sprang a leak and foundered. 
Her crew took to the boats, but one boat capsized and 
only six men were saved. Among those drowned were 
Sub-Lieutenant Oswald E. Miles, R.N.R., and Frank 
Scott, Signalman, O.N.D.J. 5747, of Hilary. 

" Cedric was lying to with prize, weather being too 
bad to board. Hilary proceeded to Kirkwall to land 
survivors of Norwegian barque. 

" Sunday, January Srd. — Gale moderating, glass rising, 
weather clearing. Each ship of ' D ' Patrol having two 
prize crews away, also several prize crews being away from 
ships of ' B ' and ' C ' Patrols, arranged for Hilary to 
bring them out and distribute them. Was informed 




\t , 













*„^ "%5 ■■ - 


by the Admiral at Queenstown that Orotava had left that 
port to join my flag. This armed merchant cruiser had 
left London about December 24th, but, owing to incom- 
plete state and defects developed, she had put into Queens- 
town for necessary repairs, etc. 

" Monday, January 4th. — Bayano arrived and was placed 
under orders of Otway on ' C ' Patrol. 

" Virginian was detached to Liverpool to coal, with 
orders to return as soon as possible in readiness to join 
special patrol with Teutonic and Mantua off Norway, 
ordered by Commander-in-Chief for January 10th. 

" Digby reported sailing from Thames to join my flag. 

" Tuesday, January 5th. — Mantua was detached to 
Liverpool to coal, with orders similar to those given to 

" Directed the senior officers of ' B ' and ' C ' Patrols to 
shift their respective base-lines twenty miles to the west- 
ward at 8 a.m., at the same time warning them of the 
reported presence of submarines off the Shetlands. 

" Hildebrand reported that in consequence of the sub- 
marine menace she was unable to go to Kirkwall, and 
that destroyers were being sent to bring in the steamer 
Denver, which she was escorting. I therefore directed 
Hilary, which was still at Kirkwall, to bring out all prize 
crews and distribute them to their own ships, leaving the 
harbour after dark. 

" Wednesday, January 6th. — Orotava joined ' B ' Patrol 
and Oropesa returned to ' C ' Patrol. 

" Paiia was reported leaving Avonmouth and Virginian 
arrived at Liverpool. Detached Caribbean to Liverpool 
to coal. Hilary proceeded to St. Kilda, where she trans- 
ferred ' D ' Patrol prize crews to Hildebrand. 

" Alsatian was working to westward of ' C ' Patrol on 
a track approximating to the Atlantic route used by 
vessels passing north of Shetlands. 

" Thursday, January 7th. — Changuinola was reported 
leaving Avonmouth, and Mantua arrived at Liver- 

" Alsatian proceeded to westward as far as St. Kilda 
to communicate with ' D ' Patrol and returned towards 
' B ' Patrol at night. 

" Cedric reported an accident which occurred when 
hoisting in her motor-boat after boarding ; four seamen 


were injured and the boat had to be abandoned as a total 

" Friday, January 8th. — ^Directed the senior officer of 
' C ' Patrol {Otway temporarily) to extend his patrol from 
lat. 59° 30' N. to lat. 61° 10' N. 

" During the forenoon I communicated by boat with 
Cedric and gave her the necessary directions for carrying 
out her patrol, 

" Saturday, January 9th. — With the approval of the 
Commander-in-Chief, I remained south of the Faeroe 
Islands in order to direct patrol, and with the special 
purpose of insuring the interception of the Norwegian 
mail steamer Bergensfjord, which M^as expected to pass 
through patrol areas between January 9th and 13th, and 
was reported to have German reservists on board, travel- 
ling under neutral passports. 

" Hildehrand reported that all prize crews had been 
distributed to their ships. 

" Clan Macnaughton was reported to be unable to attain 
a speed of more than 11|^ knots. 

" Mantua at Liverpool informed me that she had devel- 
oped a leak which necessitated docking her ; she would 
not be ready to sail till about 19th. 

" Digby arrived from London and joined ' B ' Patrol. 

" Find it very difficult to keep touch with other patrols 
when north of the Faeroes, due to the short range and small 
power of the Marconi W/T apparatus with which the 
armed merchant cruisers are fitted." 

On the day on which the Admiral commanding the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron learnt that the Motagua, the 
last of the armed merchant cruisers to be completed, was 
leaving Avonmouth to join his flag, news was received 
that the Viknor had not reached Liverpool with the 
prisoners taken out of the Norwegian steamer Bergensfjord, 
The Viknor had intercepted this vessel in lat. 62° 10' N., 
long. 2° 24' W. On learning of this success, the Rear- 
Admiral, in the Alsatian, at once proceeded to this position 
in company with the Patia and the Teutonic. He found 
the Viknor standing by the Norwegian ship, having 
arrested a passenger on board who was travelling under 
the name of Spero with a neutral passport. This pas- 
senger admitted that his real name was Baron Hans 


Adam von Wedel, who was wanted by the British Govern- 
ment on suspicion of being a German secret agent. He 
claimed American citizenship. Six stowaways and a 
passenger who were beheved to be German reservists 
were also arrested and removed to the Viknor. The cir- 
cumstances in which the Bergensfjord had been inter- 
cepted had aroused suspicion. She had passed north 
of the Faeroes by night, evidently with the purpose of 
avoiding the patrol, and had no intention of calling at 
Kirkwall for examination in accordance with the now 
established routine. A prize crew was put on board, 
and the Viknor was directed to escort the Bergensfjord to 
Kirkwall, afterwards proceeding herself to Liverpool to 
land her prisoners and complete with coal. The Alsatian 
took up a position on the other beam, and in this fashion 
the Norwegian ship was taken towards the Scottish port. 
On the following day the Viknor made her position 
through Malin Head signal station. Three days later 
Rear- Admiral Henry Stileman, senior officer at Liverpool, 
reported that the Viknor had not arrived at that 
port. A report subsequently received from Port Rush 
suggested that she had struck a mine off the north coast of 
Scotland and had been lost with all hands. At this 
period, in addition to the menace of the submarine, the 
ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had to face a deter- 
mined attempt by the enemy to mine the waters in which 
the Northern Patrol was being maintained. Day after 
day mines were being reported in the North Sea, as well 
as on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and it was 
assumed that many of them were mines which had broken 
adrift from their moorings during the gales which had 
recently been experienced. As they were not provided 
with safety appliances, as provided for under the Hague 
Convention, they were a constant source of danger to 
shipping, naval and mercantile, especially at night. In 
spite, however, of all the difficulties with which it was 
faced the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was maintaining the 
blockade in greater efficiency than ever ; between Decem- 
ber 26th and January 18th no fewer than eighty ships 
were intercepted, of which fifty-two had been eastward 
bound. It was a source of encouragement to officers and 
men that the Admiralty was seized with a due appreciation 
of the work that was done. They placed on record at 


this time their high opinion of the manner in which the 
operation was being carried out, stating that " the work 
of the vessels of the Northern Patrol is an extremely 
arduous one. Winter gales are incessant ; four vessels 
have gone down — two with all hands and the others with 
heavy loss of life." It was added that "the approach 
of long summer days increases enormously the submarine 
risk. No blockade in history has ever been so effective 
from a naval point of view, or so full of unexpected 

At the end of January the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was 
disposed on the following lines : 

" A " Patrol. 
North of the Faeroes. 
Alsatian (Flag). 

" B " Patrol. 
North of Shetlands. 

Teutonic (Senior Officer). 






" C " Patrol. 
South of Sydero. 
Motagua (Senior Officer). 

" D " Patrol. 
West of Hebrides. 
Hildebrand (Senior Officer). 
Clan Macnaughton. 

This disposition had been found the most effective for 
intercepting blockade-runners attempting to break through 
going east or enemy raiders and mine-layers going west. 
The principle on which this new organisation was based 
was that the actual lines of patrols were sufficiently far 
apart to ensure that those ships which passed one line 
by night were almost certain to be intercepted by the 
other during daylight. The ships on each line of patrol 
were, as a rule, thirty miles apart and kept a uniform 
speed of 13 knots in the same direction, altering course 
16 points every three hours ; by this means it was impos- 


sible for any blockade-runner to get through a Hne in 
clear weather during the hours of daylight, the end ships 
of the patrol being in sight of land for the required time. 
The following form of signal made to any group of ships 
was quite sufficient to place them on any patrol in the 
shortest possible time. 

From To 

S.O. 10th C.S. Cedric. " C" Patrol cross line 34°fromlat. 58° 35' N., 

Victorian. long. Q° W., at 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily, 

Patia. steering 240° and 60° respectively 25 miles 

Orotava. apart from the south, Cedric, Victorian, 

Teutonic. Patia, Orotava, Teutonic, Alcantara ; speed 

Alcantara. 14 knots. Assume this order at 6 p.m. 

to-night, Monday. 

The reconstruction of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
tended to render the blockade far more efficient, owing 
to the better seaworthy qualities of the armed merchant 
cruisers as compared with the ships of the Edgar class. 
But the boarding of steamers in stormy weather still 
imposed upon officers and men arduous and perilous 
duties. It was often a matter of considerable danger 
to place a prize crew on board a ship which had been 
intercepted and which it was thought advisable to send 
into port for examination. In the third week in February 
1915 it was indeed a matter of great difficulty to main- 
tain the efficiency of the patrol. On the 17th a heavy gale 
from the south-east, backing to E. by N., was experienced 
in the northern latitudes in which the squadron was 
working. The glass fell rapidly from 29-80° to 28-56° and 
snow and hail in heavy showers descended. A number of 
the ships had to lie to owing to the force of the storm. 
The Columhella was unable to steer the course assigned 
to her, and the Calyx had to run to the west of Loch 
Tarbert for shelter. To add to the troubles of these 
merchant seamen on war duty, it was reported that five 
submarines had been seen not far from Cape Wrath making 
west, apparently in order to harass British shipping. 
The gale continued throughout the following day, the wind 
coming from the east-south-east ; from time to time there 
were snow squalls, and it was too rough to lower boats. 

The conditions confronting the Admiral commanding 
constituted a nice problem in seamanship and exercised his 
judgment to the utmost. As an illustration we have the 


case of the Ccesarea when she was about to leave Scapa 
with thirteen prize crews, which eight vessels of the 
squadron had placed on board neutral ships which had 
been sent into port. Owing to weather conditions, the 
speed of the squadron having been reduced, and in several 
cases ships having been compelled to lie to, he signalled 
to the Ccesarea postponing her departure as there was no 
possibility of transferring the men to their ships. The 
Ccesarea had, however, already sailed. In due course 
she reached the arranged rendezvous with her prize 
crews, but owing to the state of the sea it was impossible 
to launch a boat and consequently she had to return to 
Scapa. By the close of the week, in spite of all the diffi- 
culties experienced, no fewer than fifty-one ships, an 
average of over seven a day, had been intercepted, of 
which twelve had been sent into port with prize crews. 
By the week-end, indeed, the Rear-Admiral found that 
fifteen prize crews were away from their ships, and that 
owing to the weather there was no immediate hope of 
their return. 

The arduous conditions of service began to tell on 
some of the men. A number of mercantile ratings who 
had signed on for three months expressed themselves 
unwilling to re-engage, thus raising a new problem which 
had not been foreseen. It was one, however, for which 
a remedy was found. An idea of the lives these men 
were leading can be obtained not only from what has 
been stated as to weather conditions, but is typified in the 
experience of the Caribbean. This vessel, on February 
24th, was proving unsuitable for patrol work, as she was 
old and slow, and rolled badly in the heavy weather 
generally experienced in these latitudes. On February 24th 
she reported that one dynamo was completely disabled, 
and that her foremost funnel had shifted owing to heavy 
rolling ; the roll in each direction sometimes exceeded 
40°, and occasionally reached 50°, and not infrequently 
a gunwale was submerged. Towards the end of the month 
another heavy southerly gale with big seas was experienced. 
Once again it proved impossible to distribute prize crews 
among the ships to which they belonged, and the vessels 
of the patrol had to lie to. 

The problems with which the captains of the ships 
of the squadron had sometimes to deal may be gathered 


from an incident which occurred on February 27th. At 
2.25 a.m. the Patuca had intercepted the American 
s.s. Navahoe, from Bremen bound for Norfolk (U.S.A.), 
steering west with side Hghts, but no steaming Hghts. 
When she was sighted, she altered course 16 points. On 
being overhauled she stopped, but as it was too rough 
to board she was signalled to follow the Patuca under the 
lee of the land, where examination of papers might be 
carried out. On this the captain reported his condenser 
broken, and added that it would take three hours to 
repair it. Later he made the following signal : " Con- 
denser ready; no contraband; refuse to follow you." 
The Patuca was ordered to retain her until the weather 
moderated, and to board and examine her when possible. 
At 5 p.m. the Patuca reported that the Navahoe signalled 
" Lead," and was following her towards St. Kilda. On 
the following morning, at 3,50 the Patuca boarded the 
Navahoe under the lee of St. Kilda. In a very heavy 
squall the boarding boat was swamped alongside and had 
to be cut adrift, but the officers and crew managed to get 
on board the steamer. The Patuca then proceeded with 
the Navahoe and hove to thirty-three miles north of the 
island. As the state of the weather — a gale was blowing 
from the north-west — prevented hatches being lifted for 
examination, and the captain said he would require drink- 
ing and boiler water shortly, the Admiral directed the 
Patuca to take the Navahoe to Stornoway, the nearest 
port, and carry out the examination there. It was reported 
later that no mines or oil fuel were discovered at this 
examination, and the ship appeared to be in ballast, so all 
ended well. This incident followed closely upon the 
untimely death from exposure of the commanding officer 
of the Patuca, Commander France-Hayhurst, R.N. He 
died at Glasgow on the 24th. 

Soon after March opened, intelligence was received of 
the sinking of one of the ships of the squadron — the 
Bayano. On the 10th there were no fewer than five armed 
merchant cruisers in the Clyde, a port that had for some 
time been utilised by a portion of the squadron for coaling 
and repairs. That night, which was very dark, the Bayano 
put to sea without lights to rejoin the flag. At 5.15 a.m. 
she was attacked by a submarine ten miles S.E. by E. 
from Corsewall Point off the Galway coast and sunk with 


a heavy loss of life. On the same day the Ambrose, on 
reaching Liverpool, reported that she had been attacked 
off Oversay Island by a submarine on three separate 
occasions. Two torpedoes were fired, one in the first 
and one in the second attack, but on the third occasion 
the conning-tower of the submarine was seen about 400 
yards on the port quarter. Fire was at once opened, 
and a hit was apparently scored after eight or nine rounds. 
The first successful shot threw up a thick water mist, and 
on two subsequent projectiles striking the water in the 
same place, a thick oily-looking spray appeared. Nothing 
more was seen of the enemy craft. The Ambrose was of 
slow speed and her escape was undoubtedly due to the 
skilful manner in which Commander Bruton manoeuvred 
the vessel, and to the accuracy of the fire of the gunners. 
Three days later, while proceeding north from the Clyde, 
the Digby was also chased by a submarine off Skerryvore. 
She took refuge in Tobermory Harbour, but on the following 
day, having obtained a destroyer escort, she proceeded 
in safety to her patrol area. 

On February 2nd the squadron suffered a serious loss. 
The Clan Macnaughton, on the extreme end of the Western 
Patrol, foundered in lat. 58° 47' N., long. 9° 27' W. with 
all hands. She was unable to signal any call for help. 
Such a call, however, would have been of little use, as all 
the ships that night on patrol were doing their best to look 
after themselves. The}'^ were having a most trying experi- 
ence, as all lights sighted, even in the worst weather, had to 
be investigated and kept in sight till the weather moderated 
sufficiently to enable signals to be made. This was often 
difficult, especially in the case of sailing-ships driving 
before the gale under bare poles, and it is feared that in 
some such endeavour the Clan Macnaughton may have 
gone down. Two ships searched for three days in the 
vicinity, but no trace of life or wreckage was found. 

About this time the Admiralty withdrew the Calyx 
and Esquimo from the squadron owing to the unfavourable 
reports which had been made upon them by the Rear- 
Admiral commanding. They were old boats of slow 
speed. The Admiralty were requested to requisition six 
more large ships for duty with the squadron in view of the 
stream of traffic through the patrol areas. On March 26th 
no fewer than eleven steamers were intercepted, of which 


it was considered necessary to send seven into Kirkwall 
with prize crews. Day by day incidents proved that the 
eighteen ships which now constituted the squadron were 
inadequate for the work which had to be done. The bad 
weather at this period added to the difficulties. " The 
weather became very bad and prevented boarding in the 
open sea," Admiral de Chair reported on April 3rd, " but 
by taking ships under the lee of the nearest land, prize 
crews were put on board where required, and all vessels 
intercepted were dealt with. In some cases it was neces- 
sary to turn an intercepted vessel over from one ship 
to another of the patrol, as no more prize crews could be 
spared from the first ship's company. The Patia had 
six prize crews away. In all twenty-one prize crews 
were away from the squadron." 

On rejoining the squadron after recoaling, the Colum- 
hella reported that the heavy seas experienced on the 
previous night had carried away her gun-shelter, and had 
put out of action the ammunition supply and communica- 
tions on the forecastle. The Ambrose, which had left 
Liverpool to rejoin the patrol, was for a time the cause 
of considerable anxiety at this time, but it was after- 
wards found that she had had to put into Belfast on 
account of heavy weather. These conditions led to a 
collision between the Patia and a Norwegian steamer 
during boarding operations, a plate of the British ship 
being started and a frame bent. To add to the troubles 
of the Admiral, news was received on April 17th that the 
Virginian had run ashore in the Clyde, opposite Govan 
Ferry, blocking the river and delaying the Oropesa on 
her way back to the patrol. While the squadron was 
contending with fierce gales in the more southerly waters 
in which the patrol was being maintained, farther north 
the ships were seriously embarrassed by the drift ice ; 
as late as the end of May floes about one square mile in 
extent separated from the pack, suggesting that the ice 
was about to break up, and simultaneously the temperature 
of the water rose an average of 4° F. 

In the meantime, however, the squadron had been 
strengthened by the six additional ships which the Admir- 
alty had agreed to allot to the patrol service. These 
vessels were the Alcantara, the Orcoma, the Andes, the 
Arlanza, the India, and the Ebro. These measures 


resulted in the squadron being at last brought up to the 
strength which it had originally been intended should be 

By the spring of 1915 — before the loss of the Viknor, 
Bayano, and Clan Macnaughion — the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron consisted of the following vessels, particulars 
being given of the owners, the naval officers in command, 
and the masters who were retained after the vessels had 
been requisitioned by the Admiralty : 



Captain (R.N.) 
(in Command). 

Masters (B.N.E.). 


Royal Mail Steam 

Cdr. T. E. Wardle 

Lt.-Cdr. F. M. 

Packet Co. 



Allan Line Steam- 

Capt. G. Trewby 

Cdr. Edmund Out- 

ship Co. 



Booth Steamship 

Cdr. C. W. Bru- 

Lt. Bernard H. 


ton (after May 
1915 Cdr. V. L. 



Andes . 

Pacific Steam Na- 

Cdr. C. W. Trous- 

Lt. Richard L. 

vigation Co., Ltd. 

dale (after Jan. 
1916 Cdr. C. B, 



Royal Mail Steam 
Packet Co. 

Capt. D. T. Norris 

Lt. C. J. Goble 


Elders & Fyffes, 

Cdr. H. C. Carr 

Lt. Bernard Dun- 




Royal Mail Steam 

Cdr. F. H. Walter 

Lt.-Cdr. Chas. H. 

Packet Co. 

M. Woods 

Cedric . 

Oceanic Steam Na- 

Capt. R. Benson 

Cdr. James 0. 

vigation Co. 



Elders & Fyfies, 

Cdr. H. Brockle- 

Lt.-Cdr. Arthur H. 




Clan Mac- 

Clan Line (Irvine, 

Cdr. R. Jeffreys 

Lt. George J. Wel- 


Cayzer & Co.) 


Columbella . 

Anchor Line (Hen- 

Capt. H. Heard 

Lt. Raymond H. 

derson Bros.) 

(after July 1915 
Capt. A. Brom- 

A. Dunn 

Digby . 

Furness, Withy & 

Capt. R. F. Mahon 

Lt. Hamilton M. 


(after Oct. 1915 
Cdr. A. Warren 
and after Dec. 
1915 French offi- 
cers and crew) 


Ebro . 

Royal Mail Steam 

Cdr. E. V. Dug- 

Lt. Leopold G. P. 

Packet Co. 




Booth Steamship 

Booth Steamship 

Cdr. Bather 

Lt. Chas M. Wray. 

Hildebrand . 

Capt. H. Edwards 

Lt. Henry P. B. 


(after Dec. 1915 
Capt. J. Grant 





Captain (R.N.). 
(in command). 

Masters (R.N.R.). 

India . 

P. & O. Steam 

Cdr. W. G. Ken- 

Lt. Richard G. 

Navigation Co. 




P. & 0. Steam 

Capt. C. Tibbetts 

Capt. Frederick W. 

Navigation Co. 



Elders & Fyffes, 

Capt. V. Philli- 

Lt.-Cdr. Robert 


more (after Feb. 
1915 Capt. J. 



Oceanic Steam 
Navigation Co. 

Capt. W. F. Slater 

Cdr. H. Smith 


Pacific Steam 

Cdr. C. W. Bruton 

Lt.-Cdr. John A. 

Navigation Co. 

(after May 1915) 



Pacific Steam 

Cdr. N. L. Stanley 

Lt. Frederick W. 

Navigation Co. 

(after Dec. 1915 
French officers 
and crew) 



Royal Mail Steam 

Cdr. G. E. Corbett 

Lt. Reginald S. 

Packet Co. 


Otway . 

Orient Steam Na- 

Capt. E. L. Booty 

Cdr. Hugh G. 

vigation Co. 


Patia . 

Elders & Fyffes, 

Capt. G. W. Vi- 

Lt.-Cdr. Chas. H. 


vian (after 1914 
Cdr. V. L. Bow- 


Patuca . 

Elders & Fyffes, 

Cdr. C. H. France 

Lt.-Cdr. Sidney K. 


Hay hurst (after 
May 1915 Cdr. 
P. G. Brown and 
after Sept. 1915 
Cdr. T. Dann- 



Oceanic Steam 

Capt. H. Chatter- 

Cdr. Hugh F. 

Navigation Co. 

ton (after Oct. 
1915 Cdr. A. H. 




Allan Line Steam- 
ship Co. 

Cdr. F. H. Walter 

Cdr. E. Cook 


The Viking Cruis- 

Cdr. E. C. Ballan- 

Lt. W. CM. John- 

ing Co. 




Allan Line Steam- 

Cdr. H. H. Smith 

Cdr. Alexander 

ship Co, 


A far more efficient patrol became possible as a result 
of the allocation of these additional ships to the squadron. 
The improvement threw into prominence the divergence 
of policy between the naval forces, intent only upon put- 
ting constriction upon the enemy, and the Foreign Office, 
anxious so to regulate the blockade as not to give neutral 
states justifiable cause of dissatisfaction. There was 
something to be said from both points of view. The 
action of the Foreign Office was the subject of not a little 


criticism on the part of the naval authorities at Whitehall, 
as well as by officers who were submitting to service of 
unparalleled hardship only to see diplomatic action rob- 
bing them of the fruits of their vigilance. In the early 
months of the year 1915 two instances occurred which 
suggested that undue leniency was being exhibited to 
neutral vessels. In the first instance, the American 
s.s. Greenbriar, which had been taken into Kirkwall and 
then released by superior orders, reached Bremen, where 
fourteen Germans were taken out of her and the chief 
engineer, an Englishman, promptly imprisoned. The 
American papers at first expressed indignation at the cap- 
ture of this ship, but they speedily changed their tone 
when they learnt that she had Germans on board and was 
full of contraband cargo. For the fourth time the steamer 
Bergensfjord was intercepted, and, to the chagrin of the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron, was again released. 

On May 10th Rear-Admiral de Chair steamed towards 
Denmark Strait to investigate the icefield which had 
been reported in that vicinity. He found a large field 
of closely packed ice drifting south-east. The edge was 
traced from lat. 66° 48' N., long. 16° 12' W., to lat. 68° N., 
long. 13° 2' W. No passage could be discovered, and the 
captain of a steamer stated that no vessels were passing 
to the north of Iceland, news which was not unwelcome 
to the crews of the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. 

As the summer opened the menace of German sub- 
marines steadily increased, and from time to time the 
Admiral commanding had considerably to vary the areas 
patrolled in order to reduce the chances of his ships, 
offering large targets for attack, being sunk. Conclusive 
evidence of the dangers which had to be incurred was 
supplied by incidents which occurred in the month of 
June. Submarines, while on the look-out for vessels of 
the patrol themselves, stopped two steamers near St. Kilda. 
On June 14th the Motagua, while boarding the British 
steamer Goathland in lat. 58° 22' N., long. 8° 15' W., 
had a narrow escape. She observed an unknown steamer 
being sunk by a large submarine. She at once pro- 
ceeded towards the distressed vessel, driving the submarine 
off by gunfire. Her arrival was too late, however, to save 
the ship, the identity of which was then unknown. On 
the same day the India was attacked in lat. 59° 20' N., 









long. 7° 52' W. The periscope of an enemy submarine 
was sighted right aft of the port quarter. After discharg- 
ing a torpedo, which just missed the ship, the submarine 
dived, and the India completed her voyage to the Clyde 
to coal in safety. At this period submarines were also 
reported three miles west of Rathlin O'Beirne Island, off 
Barra Head, and to the westward of Flannan Island. An 
illustration of the services which patrols were rendering 
to neutral shipping was furnished by the action of the 
Orotava. On June 15th she sighted a submarine close to 
the Danish steamer Russ. That ship was stopped, and had 
her boats half lowered, as if she were about to abandon ship. 
The Orotava promptly went to her rescue, and opening fire 
on the submarine, drove the enemy away. The Danish 
vessel was then escorted to a place of safety, the Orotava 
screening her from the possibility of further attack. In 
consequence of the activity of submarines, a change had to 
be made at this period in the routes given for British and 
Allied vessels bound for Archangel from British ports, 
it being considered unsafe for them to pass south of 

As the summer drew on, it became more than ever 
evident that large sums of money were being offered to 
enterprising skippers to go through the blockade. It was 
rightly assumed that some would endeavour to pass well 
north of Iceland into the Arctic Circle, making the extreme 
north of Norway and getting south inside territorial waters, 
and consequently the Admiral had to send ships to watch 
these waters. As a further complication a captured ship 
stated that submarines were using Jan Mayen Island 
(500 miles north of Iceland) as a base for attacking the ships 
of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and so the Alcantara 
went round the island and landed a party of seamen to 
investigate. Nothing, however, was found except some 
German huts and three black fox cubs, which were 
promptly captured and brought on board to become ships' 
pets ; but they did not live long. 

On June 17th the flagship proceeded to the eastward, in 
order to get into touch with one of the patrols and incident- 
ally to intercept the Norwegian steamer Kristianiafjord, 
which was reported to have left Bergen on the previous 
day. The Kristiajiiafjord was heard signalling with Bergen 
early in the morning and at frequent intervals afterwards, 


so orders were given from the Alsatian to the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron to stop signaUing by wireless. It was 
noticed that the Norwegian vessel's replies to Bergen 
were very short and made quickly ; this rendered it 
difficult to obtain a reading by the direction-finder which 
had been fitted in the Alsatian. It was also observed 
that the strength of the Kristianiajjord' s signals did not 
alter appreciably throughout the day, and it was assumed 
that this stratagem was adopted in order to prevent an 
estimate of her movements being formed. After about 
five hours, during which the Kristianiajjord was also 
working with the wireless of another Norwegian ship, 
the line on which she was steaming was roughly located 
by means of the direction-finder, but not her exact position. 
At 9.45 p.m., however, a message from her was inter- 
cepted stating that she was 370 miles from Bergen. The 
Alsatian then recommenced signalling on full power, and 
the ships on patrol in the vicinity were directed to make 
no wireless signals. The Norwegian vessel was thus given 
no opportunity of locating these vessels by means of her 
direction-finders, and in trying to avoid the Alsatian she 
ran into the other ships of the patrol. As a result of this 
skilful handling of the situation, the Kristianiafjord, with 
544 passengers on board, was intercepted by the Mantua 
in lat. 60° 42' N., long. 11° 37' W., at 10.30 a.m. of 
June 18th, and was sent into Stornoway with an armed 
guard. This incident furnished an interesting illustration 
of the efficiency of the patrol, since within a short time of 
the Admiralty telegram being received to stop her, the 
suspected vessel had been rounded up and was on her 
way to port for examination. 

By this time it became apparent that the squadron 
was in need of a more convenient base, so in compliance 
with a signal from the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand 
Fleet, the Admiral proceeded to Swarbacks Minn, in the 
Shetlands, to examine that anchorage in order that he might 
judge its suitability as a northern base. Sir Dudley 
found there was room for seven of his cruisers to lie at 
single anchor, and while there he was able to carry out 
a practical demonstration of the value of its central 
position. At noon on May 6th he received a report that 
an oil-tank steamer had been sighted in lat. 60° 30' N., 
long. 4° 20' W., steering north-east, having apparently 

CH. v] A NEW BASE 127 

evaded the patrols. Hastening from the harbour at 18 
knots, the Alsatian captured the tanker at 3.30 p.m. on the 
same day, and sent her into Kirkwall with a prize crew. 
A plan was drawn up for the defence of Swarbacks Minn, and 
arrangements were made with representatives of the Works 
and Stores Department, who joined in the conference, for 
coaling and watering twenty-four ships. It was con- 
sidered necessary, in view of the large coal consumption 
of the squadron (1,600 tons per diem), that four colliers 
should always be available for immediate use, besides 
a moored coal-hulk for supplying the yachts and drifters 
which had been associated with the squadron, as well as 
for the harbour craft. 

The question of water supply was one of considerable 
difficulty. It w^as estimated that 150 tons a day would 
be necessary for refilling the boilers of the visiting ships. 
A loch above the whaling station in Olna Firth was 
eventually selected, since it yielded a fair drinking water 
of peaty character free from contamination, and arrange- 
ments were made for laying a pipe-line to the shore, 
whence lighters would convey it to the ships. The old 
cruiser Gibraltar had been fitted as a depot and repair 
ship and orders were given that she should be stationed 
at the base, moored so that her guns could defend the 
boom from attack. The Admiralty was requested to 
dispatch from 200 to 300 firemen, in addition to her 
reduced complement, so that personnel might be available 
to assist in coaling ships. At the same time it was reported 
that a hospital ship and a frozen-meat ship would be 
required at the base, and it was urged that, as a precaution 
against the enemy laying mines off Swarbacks Minn, a 
couple of sweeping trawlers should be sent northward to 
keep the channel open. 

As the month of June drew to a close, two incidents 
occurred marking the difficulties under which the patrol 
was carrying out its duties. On June 21st the Alsatian 
intercepted the Norwegian sailing-ship Bessfield, with 
wheat from South America for Norway. The master 
reported that when about thirty miles from Mizzen Head, 
U34 stopped the ship by exploding a shell above her deck, 
pieces of the shell falling on board. The German officer 
ordered the Bessfield not to call at any British port, and 
the master, before being released, was given written orders 



not to call at any British port but to proceed direct to 
Bergen, it being added that if he was found off his course 
he would be shot. The Alsatian nevertheless sent the vessel 
into Lerwick. 

On the following day, when the Teutonic was off the 
Norwegian coast, she sighted the German steamer Konsul 
Schulize, at a distance of thirteen miles. The vessel 
was off Kya Island. The Teutonic immediately gave 
chase and drew in to eight miles, still outside gun 
range. The German vessel then altered course and ran 
for territorial waters to the north-east of the island. 
On learning what had happened, Admiral de Chair directed 
the Teutonic to keep the German ship in sight, and to call 
up the Victorian to watch the other side of the island. 
Later the Teutonic reported to the Admiral that the 
Konsul Schultze had proceeded in a north-easterly direc- 
tion towards Folden Fjord. A report was at once made 
to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, and the 
Teutonic was ordered to patrol about lat. 64° 22' N., 
long. 9° 34' E., with the Victorian in support of her to try 
and get the steamer to come out. If a submarine had been 
available this German ship would probably have been 
captured. The watch was maintained throughout the 
following day, but the German vessel was not again 
sighted, and it was afterwards ascertained she had gone 
into Trondhjem. 

German submarines in the meantime were actively 
engaged intercepting ships off the Butt of Lewis, sinking 
many of them without warning. The enemy's success 
did not pass unnoticed, and on June 25th Admiral de 
Chair learnt that an " E " class submarine had been 
directed to cruise off Stadlandet, thus supplying a long- 
felt want. At this period a number of German steamers 
were being sighted in territorial waters, to the chagrin 
of the officers and men of the patrolling ships. What- 
ever the patrol lacked in efficient constriction on the 
enemy was certainly not due to want of vigilance on the 
part of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. During the six months 
which had intervened since December 1914, the distance 
covered by the flagship had been 35,738 miles, the expendi- 
ture of coal and water amounting to 20,796 tons and 
13,382 tons respectively. The figures of the flagship 
were typical of all the other ships of the squadron, and a 


current estimate put the annual consumption of coal of 
the twenty-four ships at 598,000 tons. During the week 
ending June 26th no fewer than seventy-one vessels were 
intercepted and examined, fourteen of them being sent 
into port with armed guards. 

The month of July opened with an accident to the 
PaUica, which served as a reminder of the hazardous 
character of the work which the vessels of the patrol were 
carrying out. Orders had been received from the Admir- 
alty that the Swedish steamer Oscar II, on passage from 
Buenos Aires to Christiania with a cargo of coffee, hides, 
etc., should be sent into port if she was met with. The 
Patuca fell in with this vessel early on the morning of 
July 1st, with disastrous results. The Oscar II struck the 
Patuca on the starboard bow, crushing her own bow, and 
then, rubbing alongside, she was holed in the engine-room 
by the patrol ship's propeller. Some plates of the Patuca 
were injured, and the flange of her propeller was badly 
bent, but collision mats were requisitioned, and by shoring 
up her side and filling in the spaces between the damaged 
plates with cement, she was made sufficiently seaworthy 
to proceed to the Clyde at 14 knots. 

The damage sustained by the Swedish ship was more 
serious, and she started making water badly. The engine- 
room filled, putting out the fires, and the crew abandoned 
her and went on board the Patuca. The Admiral com- 
manding immediately ordered the Columbella and Digby to 
the scene of the accident, and the Royal Scot was detached 
to tow the Oscar II to Stornoway. The Commander-in- 
Chief of the Grand Fleet, on receiving intelligence of the 
mishap, announced that destroyers would be in readiness 
off the Butt of Lewis. The Royal Scot took the injured 
vessel in tow, the Digby acting as escort. At 1 p.m. the 
Digby reported that the upper deck of the Swedish vessel 
was awash, and that the tow had parted. Three hours 
later the Royal Scot had the steamer again in tow, but 
the voyage promised to be a long lone, as no higher speed 
than 4 knots could be made. 

Early the following morning the Digby reported that 
another towing hawser had given out and that the wind 
and sea were rising. The tug Plover was forthwith 
dispatched from Stornoway to go to the assistance of the 
Oscar II, but failed to locate her. Shortly before noon 


the Royal Scot was still struggling with her burden, making 
about 3| knots. Subsequently, OAving to the condition 
of the damaged ship, all hands had to leave her. At 
1.30 p.m. the tow again parted, but was once more picked 
up by the Royal Scot. By this time the destroyers Staunch 
and Fury had joined the escort. At 5 o'clock that afternoon 
the towing operations had to be suspended, and an hour 
later the tow once more parted. At 8.35 p.m. the Digby 
reported that she was experiencing great difficulty in towing 
as all the wires had gone except that attached to the cable 
of the derelict, adding that there was no steam or hand 
gear on her capstan. Early the following morning the 
Oscar II, though completely water-logged, was still in 
tow of the Royal Scot. At 6 a.m. the ships reached 
lat. 59° 11' N., long. 7° 42' W., when steering became 
difficult through the yawing of the derelict. At 9 a.m. 
the tow again parted, the bollards having drawn and the 
wires gone, and as further towing by the Royal Scot was 
impracticable, that ship was sent to Stornoway to fill up 
with water. The Digby, assisted by the Fury, then 
attempted to pick up the tow, but unsuccessfully. By 
this time the Oscar II had developed a list of 40 degrees 
and the seas were sweeping over her. At 7 p.m. she sank, 
and the Digby then returned to her patrol and the Royal 
Scot went to Scapa Flow. 

The incident is of interest as a reflection of the devotion 
to duty exhibited by the officers and men of the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron in carrying out the patrol with a deter- 
mination to inflict as little inconvenience and loss on 
neutrals as possible. They were tireless in adapting 
their procedure to circumstances. In contrast with the 
efforts made to save the Oscar II is the record of the 
prompt measures adopted on July 8th in the case of the 
German Friedrich Arp. The Tenby Castle, one of the 
armed trawlers attached to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
sighted the enemy ship, outward bound from Stettin to 
Narvik with a cargo of magnetic ore, off the Norwegian 
coast. The Tenby Castle fired a shot across her bow and 
ordered her to steer S.W. by W. The master refused to 
obey and steamed towards the land. The trawler then 
fired a shot into the steamer's stern. She stopped, but 
still refused to steer as directed. The trawler then gave 
warning that she would be sunk unless she obeyed orders. 


Again she made for the shore. ReaHsing that decisive 
measures were necessary, the Tenby Castle fired sixteen 
rounds into her starboard quarter, and she sank in lat. 
67° 47' N., long. 14° 15' E. The crew, as well as the pilot, 
were rescued and transferred to the India. At this period 
there was a further marked recrudescence of submarine 
activity, but nevertheless in the week ending July 24th 
115 vessels were intercepted, of which 17 were sent into 
port with armed guards. 

The closing days of the month provided an incident 
which proved at once the activity of the enemy and the 
stratagem to which resort was had in defeating him. 
On July 29th information was received of the sinking 
of the Norwegian steamer Trondhjemsfjord in lat. 61° 30' N., 
long. 3° 42' W., by a German submarine on July 26th. 
This vessel was proceeding to Kirkwall in charge of an 
armed guard from the Hildebrand, when she was fired at 
by the submarine, the shot passing over the bows. The 
master altered course to bring the submarine astern and 
proceeded at full speed. After a chase of half an hour, 
the submarine fired a second shot and the Trondhjemsfjord, 
which was being rapidly overhauled, stopped. The master 
was ordered on board the submarine with the ship's 
papers, but before leaving he arranged for the disguise 
of the armed guard, his wife, who was on board, providing 
the oflicer (Lieutenant Crawford, R.N.R.) with some of 
her husband's clothes in place of his own, which she packed 
with her own effects for removal. The rifles, etc., belong- 
ing to the guard were concealed in the fore peak. Soon 
after the master got on board the submarine the crew 
of the Trondhjemsfjord were directed to abandon ship 
immediately. When all the boats were clear of the ship 
the submarine fired a torpedo amidships from a dis- 
tance of about 130 yards, and the Trondhjemsfjord listed 
heavily to port. Amongst other cargo this steamer was 
carrying a large quantity of sulphuric acid, which burst 
with a loud explosion and flew to the height of the 
mastheads on the ship being hit by the torpedo. After 
the vessel had sunk, the submarine towed the crew 
and armed guard in their boats about four miles to 
the southward, where the Norwegian barque Glance was 
met with and ordered by the German officer to embark 
them. The submarine was of the latest type, being 


about 200 feet long, with two masts, fitted with wireless, 
and was armed with a 12-pounder gun forward and a 
6-pounder gun aft. The hull was grey, and her number 
was painted out. Her commander was a young man 
about twenty-five, who treated the master of the Nor- 
wegian steamer with courtesy. He explained that his 
chief reason for sinking the Trondhjemsfjord was that she 
was an English steamer bought by a Norwegian Company 
since the commencement of hostilities. He also said 
that he was looking for the Drammenfjord, which he was 
instructed to sink on account of her British origin. The 
master of the Trondhjemsfjord (Captain Bang) and his 
wife appear to have behaved in a most circumspect manner 
throughout. Whilst on board the submarine, the former 
denied that he had an armed guard on board his ship 
or that he had been boarded by a British patrol vessel. 
The crew and armed guard were first transferred to the 
Swedish steamer Orlando, bound for Sweden, and the 
armed guard eventually reached Thurso in the trawler 
Princess Juliana, the master and crew of the Trond- 
hjemsfjord remained in the Orlando. 

While practical experience of war conditions in the block- 
ading areas had shown the necessity for an alteration in 
the types of vessels employed, it had to be remembered 
that throughout the whole of the Empire's sea service 
unprecedented conditions were bringing about almost 
daily changes in the sphere of scientific equipment. From 
these experiments the Tenth Cruiser Squadron was not 
exempt, and an interesting little note of the Admiral in 
command, under the date of August 21st, 1915,^ reveals 
that his flagship, the Alsatian, had been fitted up during 
July with a new wireless telegraph direction-finder, 
designed by the National Physical Laboratory. Trials 
were to be given to this, and a later note, of September 7th, 
shows that during a thick fog, in which the Hildebrand 
and Teutonic were to be met at a prearranged rendezvous, 
the new direction-finder proved very useful in determining 
their position. It is a matter of no great historical import- 
ance, but it is a vivid indication that, pressed as they were 
by circumstances, the scientific spirit of the officers of 

^ At this period of 1915 the Alsatian reported that she had experienced 
nearly twelve complete days of continuous fog and mist when on patrol 
to the south of Iceland. 


the new navy, as well as the old navy, was as alive in the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron as in any other division of the 
naval and mercantile services. 

On July 19th, 1915, the flagship Alsatian, after coal- 
ing and repairing at Liverpool, proceeded to rejoin the 
squadron, which had by this time been welded into a 
thoroughly efficient blockading force. During the later 
part of this month enemy submarines in these southern 
seas had become very active ; the Columbella was 
attacked on the 22nd in lat. 60° 26' N., long. 4° 42' W., 
but the enemy was avoided ; this submarine craft, after 
making the attack, dived and came up again five miles 
astern, whether or not with the idea of attacking a Danish 
schooner in the vicinity was uncertain. At any rate, 
both the British patrol steamer and the Danish vessel 
escaped. On the same day, however, a trawler and a 
Russian collier were sunk, and the French ship Dance 
on the 23rd by one of the submarines operating in lat. 
59° 15' N., long. 7° 20' W. On July 26th the Teutonic 
reported that she had intercepted the Norwegian steamer 
Bianca, which had also been stopped by a German sub- 
marine carrying two guns, twenty-five miles N.W. 
by W. from Foula Island ; the British steamer Grange- 
wood, which had been intercepted by the Patuca on the 
24th, was also destroyed twenty miles east-north-east 
from Muckle Flugga in the Shetlands. 

The Germans were evidently studying with jealous 
eye the success with which the blockade was being main- 
tained, and the goodwill by which it was regarded by many 
neutral seamen. " Ruthlessness " was the German 
watchword. An indication of the enemy's counteraction 
was furnished towards the end of July, when the Nor- 
wegian steamer Fimreite, with an armed guard on board 
(furnished by the patrol ship Motagua), was torpedoed. 
At 4.14 a.m. on the 23rd, when about lat. 60° 15' N., long. 
8° 45' W., a submarine was sighted on the port bow 
making for the Fimreite at high speed. She fired a gun 
and ordered the steamer to stop and send a boat. While 
the master was on board the submarine, the officer in 
charge of the armed guard (Mr. P. B. Clarke, Midshipman 
R.N.R.) ordered his men to take off their uniforms and 
help to put the boats out. 

On his return to the ship the master of the Fimreite 


stated that he had been questioned as to his destina- 
tion, and had given it as Hull ; asked if he were going 
direct, he had replied " via Kirkwall." Pie was then 
asked if he had a prize crew aboard, and answered, 
" Yes ; one officer and four soldiers." The Germans told 
him they would sink him for trading with the English, and 
told him not to let the Englishmen get into the boats, 
as they w^ere to sink with the ship. The officer of the 
guard, thinking the Germans might search the boats, 
ordered his men to remove every scrap of uniform and to 
disguise themselves as much as possible, taking their 
revolvers in their pockets. As soon as the boats were 
clear of the ship, the submarine opened fire on her with 
what looked like a 6- or 12-pounder gun. She fired about 
fifteen projectiles, one of which struck the boilers, and the 
Fimreite sank bow first. There were twenty-nine men seen 
on board the submarine watching the shooting, most of 
them dressed in duffle suits. The submarine had one 
mast amidships and a black patch forward where her 
number had probably been painted out. After sinking 
the Fimreite, she dived, heading in a westerly direction. 
The crew and guard were in the boats from 4.45 a.m. till 
3.30 p.m., when they were picked up by the Norwegian 
barque Springband, which transferred them to the Caliban 
for passage to Stornoway. 

The work of the patrol was now in full swing : the 
organisation, considering the novelty of the conditions, 
the seas in which operations were being carried out, and 
the complications provided by the German submarines, 
was working smoothly. Some idea of the amount of work 
being done at this period may be gathered from the fact 
that during the last week of July sixty-nine ships were 
intercepted and examined, twelve of them being sent 
into port with armed guards, while during the first week 
of August sixty-four vessels were intercepted, the same 
number as before being sent into port. 

The most memorable incident, perhaps, of this month 
was the disaster which overtook the India while on patrol 
duty off the Norwegian coast some six or seven miles 
north-north-west from Heligver Light on the afternoon of 
August 8th. On the morning of this day the s.s. Gloria, a 
Swedish ship, had been sighted by the India to the north- 
ward, accompanied by two armed trawlers, the Saxon and 


the Newland. The Indians course was altered to meet them, 
and an officer went on board to examine the Swedish vessel. 
A search lasting about one and a half hours was made. The 
Gloria was allowed to proceed at about 10 a.m., a report 
upon her cargo being made by wireless to the senior 
officer of the patrol in the Virginian. The India then 
altered her course to the south-west, at a speed of 14 knots, 
zigzagging according to orders, and at 11 a.m. sighted 
another ship making for Taen Island. As she was inside 
the three-mile territorial limit, the officer in charge of 
the India, Commander W. G. A. Kennedy, R.N., closed 
her and followed her to the northward for purposes of 
identification. This again took the India several miles 
north of her patrol line into the West Fjord. The vessel 
proved to be a Swedish steamship, Atland. Once more 
course was altered for the patrol line, and at about noon 
an urgent wireless message was received from the Vir- 
ginian ordering Commander Kennedy to send the Swedish 
ship Gloria into Kirkwall. Once more, therefore, he had 
to alter course, increasing his speed to 16| knots, with the 
hope of again intercepting this vessel. At 2 p.m., how- 
ever, he had seen nothing of her, and being then well to 
the north of his patrol line, he again turned south, and 
zigzagged at a speed of 14 knots. An hour later a 
steamer was observed inshore, just to the northward of 
Taen Island, and the India altered her course so as to 
intercept her, coming up with her about 4 p.m. Being 
just inside the territorial limit. Commander Kennedy 
could not interfere with her, but on signalling she replied 
that she was the s.s. Hillhouse, bound from South Shields 
to Archangel in ballast, and she hoisted the Red Ensign. 
As she had no name visible anywhere, Commander Ken- 
nedy considered her to be very suspicious, but was obliged 
to leave her alone. Yet again, therefore, having sighted 
and signalled the armed trawler Saxon, he altered his course 
back to the centre of the patrol line, soon afterwards 
perceiving another steamer making towards Taen Island. 

Course was again altered in order to try to intercept the 
new-comer, and Commander Kennedy then left the bridge 
for a few minutes to go to the wireless house, passing 
thence to the hurricane deck. Within a few minutes the 
alarm gong sounded, and returning to the bridge he saw 
the track of a torpedo approaching the India from an 


angle of about 80 degrees on the starboard bow. Orders 
were given " Full speed ahead " and " Hard aport." Com- 
mander Kennedy hoped that the torpedo had safely 
passed under the ship, as her track had reached the vessel's 
side before the explosion. Unfortunately this was not the 
case, the India being struck on the starboard side between 
the after companion-way and the after gun on the star- 
board side. 

The great vessel at once began to settle by the stern, 
and the order was given to abandon ship. Seven of 
the ship's lifeboats — four on the starboard and three on 
the port side — had been kept lowered in view of such 
an eventuality, and though six of them were fully and 
successfully manned, one of the port boats capsized, 
owing to a great deal of way being still on the ship. The 
starboard boats were being thrown into hopeless con- 
fusion, owing to the first lifeboat's foremost fall freeing 
itself and causing her to swing round and foul the third life- 
boat and first whaler ; the first cutter was, it was believed, 
stove in against the ship's side whilst being lowered. 
" I very much regret," Commander Kennedy reported, 
" that all the efforts which were made to save life by means 
of the boats actually caused the great loss of life." Of 
the number saved, namely 189 officers and men, no less 
than 19 officers and 138 men had all dived into the sea, 
or gone down with the ship. As the vessel sank in less 
than five minutes after the explosion, all efforts to get 
the rafts out were unavailing. Commander Kennedy went 
down with his ship, and eventually floated up amongst 
the wreckage. Throughout the trying ordeal, discipline 
was splendidly maintained. " I wish to place on record," 
Commander Kennedy stated in his report, " my admiration 
of the magnificent behaviour of the officers and men ; 
notwithstanding the appalling swiftness of the catas- 
trophe, the most perfect discipline prevailed until the end." 
The survivors were subsequently picked up by the Swedish 
steamer Gotaland and the armed trawler Saxon, and were 
landed in Norway ; they were removed to an internment 
camp at Jorstadmoen. The total number of lives lost 
was 9 officers and 107 men. 

Meanwhile the work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
temporarily short of three of its units, continued to 
increase, in face of great submarine activity on the part 


of the enemy, which necessitated frequent variations of 
the patrolHng. During the first week of September 1915, 
no less than eighty-nine vessels were intercepted and 
examined, fourteen being sent into port with armed 
guards. The development of the new base at Swar- 
backs Minn became a matter of the first importance in 
view of the role which the squadron M^as filling. On 
September 9th Admiral de Chair accordingly landed to 
inspect, in company with Rear-Admiral Fawckner, the 
progress of its coaling and watering plant and other local 
arrangements. He found that the rate of coaling had 
increased with experience and was now averaging from 
50 to 60 tons per hour, while a plentiful supply of boiler 
water was procurable. Ships of the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron were being sent in to coal singly, taking about 
1,000 tons each, but the resources of the base were being so 
developed as to allow, it was hoped, of several ships 
being coaled simultaneously. A further technical improve- 
ment had also been brought about by the fitting of a 
second look-out crow's-nest on the foremast of all ships 
of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. This, being placed well 
above the height of the funnels, gave them a very good 
range of vision, and ensured that other ships could be 
sighted before the patrol vessels were themselves seen. 
Ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron had thus become 
readily recognisable by the two crows'-nests on their funnels. 
Great trouble was now being experienced through fog 
in these far northern seas, and this resulted, on September 
11th, in an unfortunate collision between two vessels of 
the patrol, the Patia and the Oropesa, both of which had, 
in consequence, to be sent into the Clyde for repairs ; 
the Patia was attacked en route by a submarine, happily 
without injury. The Patia adventure was a curious one. 
The injury suffered by the vessel's stern had been so 
considerable that the water rose to the collision bulkhead. 
The bulkhead was shored up and the ballast shifted aft, 
so as to bring her bow up, and the captain decided to 
steam stern first, with the Ebro as escort. In these 
circumstances slow progress was made, so Rear-Admiral 
de Chair submitted to the Commander-in-Chief of the 
Grand Fleet that assistance should be sent. The sug- 
gestion was adopted, the Patia being ordered to proceed 
to East Loch Roag, in the Hebrides. Early on the morn- 


ing of the following day — September ISth — the Ehro 
reported that she had sighted a submarine in lat. 58° 5' N., 
long. 10° 5' W., steering north. From later reports from 
this vessel and the Patia, it appeared that they had both 
observed the lights of a supposed steamer, which the 
Ebro went to investigate. It was very dark. The chase 
proved to be a submarine, but her identity was not estab- 
lished until the Ebro was so close that she could not depress 
her guns sufficiently to fire, when the submarine dived. 
After a short interval she rose again and showed a light. 
The Ebro attempted to ram her, but she had disappeared 
when the ship arrived on the spot. Meanwhile the Patia, 
which had hitherto been proceeding stern first at 3 knots, 
reversed her engines and went ahead at 12 to 13 knots to 
clear the dangerous area. At 6.30 a.m. she reported 
that she was proceeding east at 13 knots and that her 
shored-up bulkhead was intact, collision mats in place, 
and 200 tons of ballast shifted aft. In view of these 
favourable conditions, she requested permission to pro- 
ceed direct to the Clyde, instead of putting into East Loch 
Roag, and, this course havang been approved by the 
Commander-in-Chief, she changed course to the south 
with the Ebro in company. 

In spite of fog and the bad weather which continued 
almost without intermission throughout the month, the 
work of the patrol went forward ; 51 vessels were inter- 
cepted during this week, 9 of them being sent into port 
with armed guards ; while during the following week these 
numbers increased again to 77 and 14 respectively, and 
on the last day of the month no less than 8 steamers 
were sent within twenty-four hours into Kirkwall and 
Lerwick under armed guard, 2 of them being found to 
contain German subjects. 

Beset by fogs, often so dense as to obscure all vision, 
and with German submarines still active, the patrol con- 
tinued its difficult and arduous task. One dark night, 
with a breeze blowing, wireless telegraphy signals w^ere 
received from a ship on " C " patrol to the effect that the 
captain and officers' watch could smell petrol. As none 
of the ships carried petrol, it was concluded that a sub- 
marine had just passed to windward of this ship, probably 
waiting for daylight to get a shot at the vessels on that 
patrol line. On receiving this signal the Admiral moved 


the whole line thirty miles to the westward during the 
night, which avoided that submarine, while at the same 
time not impairing the efficiency of the patrol. One can 
imagine the disgust of the commander of the submarine, 
after all his trouble to locate the patrol, when he realised 
that he had been outwitted. The place of the India had 
in the meantime been filled by the Almanzora. In the 
course of their work the ships were repeatedly succouring 
neutrals, as well as British and Allied ships. 

Instances of individual heroism and seamanship on the 
part of officers and men of the vessels of the patrol were 
of such daily occurrence as to forbid any attempt at a 
complete record. A typical instance of the sort of prob- 
lems set to and solved by even the youngest officers of the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron may, however, be cited in the 
experience of Midshipman C. A. Bamford, R.N.R., and 
Sub-Lieutenant D. L. Edwards, R.N.R., during two 
voyages, each beginning on September 16th. On this 
day Mr. Bamford had been placed in charge of an armed 
guard on board the Swedish topsail schooner Valand, 
bound from Iceland to Leith with a cargo of herrings, 
with orders to take the schooner to Lerwick, making 
Muckle Flugga during the dark hours, if possible. A 
light fair wind was experienced until the morning of the 
following day, when the wind began to haul easterly. 
At half-past nine the next morning Myggenaes, in the 
Faeroes, was sighted, bearing S.E. by S. By the evening 
of this day, however, the wind had increased to a strong 
south-easterly gale, and on the morning of the 20th the 
gale had become so high that, after consultation between 
the captain of the Valand and Mr. Bamford, it was resolved 
to heave to. 

As the wind continued to increase, the only course then 
seemed to be to run north and sail down the eastern 
side of the Faeroes. This was accordingly done, and 
at 8 p.m. on September 21st Myggenaes was once more 
sighted, this time bearing S. by W. At this point the 
Valand^s steering gear broke down, but fortunately the 
gale had somewhat moderated, and in a few hours 
the necessary repairs had been effected. On the 22nd 
the little vessel was becalmed, but on the following day 
a head wind was encountered, accompanied by dense 
banks of fog. On the 25th the fog had cleared, and there 


was a moderate east-north-east wind. By this time pro- 
visions had been almost exhausted and rehance had to be 
placed mainly on salt herrings from the cargo. At noon 
the wind once more began to blow from the north-east, and 
by evening the vessel was again labouring in a strong 
north-easterly gale. At 8 o'clock Muckle Flugga was 
sighted, but owing to the fierceness of the storm and the 
absence of coast lights, and the improbability of sighting 
any of the patrol near Lerwick, it was decided to steer a 
course farther eastward rather than to attempt to make 

At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 26th the fore rigging 
carried away, and the foremast itself nearly went over- 
board, but by knocking away the bulwarks on the port 
side, passing wire stropes round the ribs of the ship, and 
rigging up temporary stays, the damage was repaired in 
a few hours' time. On the evening of September 27th 
Mr. Bam ford determined to make another attempt to 
get to Lerwick, and accordingly sailed northward on the 
port tack. At 4 o'clock in the morning of the following 
day the starboard anchor was carried overboard, but was 
eventually got on board again without doing any damage 
beyond making a dent in the ship's side. An hour later 
land was sighted, and at 8 o'clock it was discovered that 
the ship was between the Fair Island and Sumburgh Head, 
the north-east gale having set the vessel to the westward. 
As it was then clearly impossible to get to Lerwick, and, 
in view of the wind, dangerous to attempt to reach Kirk- 
wall, the ship's gear being in a rotten condition — sails 
and ropes carrying away incessantly — Mr. Bamford now 
decided to run before the gale and try to make Leith. 

On September 29th land was sighted bearing west- 
north-west, and at 4 p.m. the storm-beaten V aland passed 
close to a town which her master thought was Aberdeen. 
Sail was reduced accordingly in order to make Bell Rock 
by dayhght. As there were, however, no proper charts 
or navigation instruments on board, and as the sun 
had not been visible since the Shetlands had been left 
behind, it was not surprising that an error in the vessel's 
bearing was made, the town which had been sighted 
being Montrose and not Aberdeen. At 4 o'clock on the 
morning of September 30th the Valand attempted to 
go through the southern channel of the Forth between 


May Island and Dunbar, but was instructed by destroyers 
to enter by the northern channel. Owing to the wind, 
May Island was not weathered until 5 o'clock that evening, 
when the vessel proceeded up the Forth as far as Largo 
Bay and anchored for the night, to proceed next morning 
into Leith Roads after an experience that none on board 
was likely to forget. 

Somewhat similar were the adventures of Sub-Lieutenant 
D. L. Edwards, who was in charge of an armed guard 
on board the Norwegian brigantine Hangar, also bound 
from Iceland, with a cargo of herrings, to the port of 
Haugesund. With similar orders to take the vessel into 
Lerwick, Lieutenant Edwards set his course accordingly, 
and on September 18th, at daybreak, sighted the Faeroes. 
Here, however, caught in the same gale as the Valand 
was experiencing, he agreed with her master that the 
only course to adopt was to heave the vessel to. The 
seas were running so high that the pump had to be worked 
continually ; the ship, which was over fifty years old, was 
leaking badly, and the water in her, in spite of all efforts, 
was increasing rapidly. While the original crew of the 
Hangar were manning the pumps. Lieutenant Edwards, 
with the armed guard, trimmed the sails as necessary. 
Throughout the next day the gale continued unabated, 
heavy seas being continually shipped. The topmast back- 
stay was carried away and a preventor rigged. 

On September 20th the vessel was in the neighbourhood 
of Faeroe Bank, and, the wind decreasing a little, a course 
was set on the starboard tack. At 9 o'clock next morning 
the Faeroes were again sighted ; the ship was headed 
for Dimon Fjord, the wind being south-south-east. As it 
was essential to weather the Faeroes, and not anticipating a 
change of wind before they could tack clear of them. Lieu- 
tenant Edwards and the master of the Hangar decided to go 
through the fjord and thus save considerable time. By 
8 o'clock they were due north of Sydero Island, where they 
were becalmed and drifted out to sea again. At 7 o'clock 
in the evening a south-westerly wind sprang up, and they 
again attempted to go through the fjord, but when only 
half a mile from the high land the wind dropped and the 
tide carried the ship landward. By then it was quite 
dark, no lights were visible and the vessel was near the 
rocks. Drifting west, and almost sweeping against the 


rocks, there now became visible to leeward a ledge of 
rocks running out to sea, and as it seemed impossible that 
the ship would be able to clear them. Lieutenant Edwards, 
after consulting with the master, decided that the ship 
would have to be abandoned. The lifeboat was accord- 
ingly hoisted out with topsail halyards, and as it was not 
provisioned, Lieutenant Edwards put his remaining 
stores into it. The boat was then pulled off a little way, 
there being no place where a landing was possible, and 
those on board watched the ship drift towards the rocks. 
To everyone's surprise, however, she passed clear of them, 
so they once more re-embarked from the boat, which was 
itself leaking so badly that it had to be continually baled. 

On once more getting on board the Haugar, Lieutenant 
Edwards found that the compass had been broken to 
pieces by the main boom, but luckily there was a spare 
compass, which he succeeded in rigging up. A breeze now 
sprang up from the south-south-west, and the Haugar pro- 
ceeded to tack to the south of Sydero. By September 22nd 
the provisions which Lieutenant Edwards had brought 
with him had been finished and the ship had not much 
left in the way of stores. Those on board had therefore 
to subsist almost entirely on hard bread and salt fish. 
On September 23rd they were once more becalmed, and 
Lieutenant Edwards, from aloft, sighted the Faeroes. 
At 4 o'clock on the morning of the 24th a breeze sprang up 
from the north-north-east, which freshened towards evening. 

The ship would not head up so high as Muckle Flugga, 
but it was found that the course would take them south 
of the Shetlands, and that they could thus make Kirkwall 
instead of Lerwick. The next day the wind increased to 
such an extent that at 8 o'clock in the evening they had 
once more to heave to. Towards night the weather grew 
steadily worse. Part of the bulwarks were stove in and 
the jib and stay sail were blown away. The old ship was 
now labouring heavily and making water fast ; the armed 
guard were helping at the pumps and rendering every 
assistance possible to the Hangar's crew. On the next 
day the weather began once more to moderate, and by 
3 o'clock land was sighted, which was made out to be 
Papa Westra Island, north of the Orkneys. Being unable 
to pass north of it, however, the ship stood out again, and on 
the 27th the wind, which was now north-north-east, again 


rose. Lieutenant Edwards, however, advised the master 
to proceed on their course in the hope of sighting land before 
dark, which, however, they did not do. The heavy 
squalls were now straining the ship in every part. Seas 
were being continually shipped, and pumping was very 
difficult. At daybreak land was sighted, the wind still being 
in the north-north-west and blowing in violent squalls. 
Sule Skerry was, however, successfully rounded at 10 o'clock 
in the morning, and the port of Kirkwall made by 6 in the 
evening, the Haugar then having four feet of water in her 
holds. Throughout this period of stress and storm, the 
conduct of all on board was beyond praise. Continually wet 
through, and frequently only able to snatch their sleep 
in saturated clothes, the highest standard of courage and 
seamanship was maintained. 

Another incident at this period further indicates the 
difficulties with which the young officers in charge of the 
armed guards had to deal. On September 30th Sub- 
Lieutenant Alfred M. Easty, R.N.R., boarded the Swedish 
steamer Avesta in lat. 60° 46' N., long. 13° 26' W., and 
proceeded towards Kirkwall, the course being set to make 
the Butt of Lewis. At 6.45 a.m. on October 1st, in lat. 
59° 54' N., long. 10° 40' W., an enemy submarine was 
sighted by T. Watson, A.B. (who was then on watch), 
about two points on the port bow. This was immediately 
reported to Mr. Easty. The ship was then steering S.E. 
by S. (magnetic) and steaming at about 8 knots. When 
sighted, the submarine appeared to be steering to the 
southward. About 7 a.m. she altered course to the south- 
south-east. She did not appear to be capable of any great 
speed, as, although closing the Avesta, she was drawing 
astern all the time. She was also evidently either using 
an excess of oil or having some engine trouble, as she was 
smoking slightly. The Avesta hoisted the Swedish colours 
on sighting the enemy. Mr. Easty ordered the guard to 
keep out of sight and to hide their uniforms as much as 
possible, he himself removing his cap and jacket. The 
captain was instructed to keep a steady course and speed 
as long as possible, and was told that should he be com- 
pelled to stop, he was to make no mention of having an 
armed guard on board. He replied that he would probably 
have to give some reason for his present course, as apparently 
the Germans were aware that the vessels of his line (A. 



Johnson, Stockholm) made a northerly course on their 
homeward voyage. 


I accordingly instructed him," Mr. Easty recorded 
afterwards, " to inform the submarine commander that 
he was proceeding to Kirkwall voluntarily. Probably, 
had we been examined, a German, who was a member 
of the crew, would have informed the enemy of our 
presence. It was useless to attempt to hide him, as 
his name and nationality appeared on the crew list. 
I must here remark that the Swedish captain behaved 
with great courtesy and seemed only too anxious 
to do all he could for us. Meanwhile the submarine was 
closing us, and about 7.30 a.m. she was about 3 points 
abaft the port beam, distant about one mile. She then 
hoisted a signal . . . but as we could not clearly dis- 
tinguish the flags, we kept our course and speed. Just at 
this time smoke appeared to the eastward, and a vessel 
looking remarkably like a cruiser was apparently approach- 
ing. The submarine also saw this vessel, and evidently 
thought her to be a cruiser, for she turned and, without 
bothering further about us, made off in a north-westerly 
direction, and was soon lost in a rain squall. She was 
seen again later, proceeding slowly in a westerly direction. 
The approaching vessel proved to be the American 
s.s. Polarine of New York — an oil-carrier. She was 
light, and steering W. by S. She appeared to be 
keeping a steady course and speed so long as she was in 

" The submarine appeared to be one of the modern 
large ones. She was on the surface the whole time. I 
was unable to ascertain whether she carried a gun or not, 
but she appeared to have been at sea for a considerable 
time. She was covered with rust, and looked something 
like a ' drifter ' at a distance. She was last seen at about 
7.50 a.m. steering west at a slow speed. I reported having 
sighted a submarine — giving the position and direction 
she was last seen heading— by semaphore to one of the 
armed trawlers (fitted with W/T) which stopped me off 
Cape Wrath at 8 a.m. on October 2nd. We arrived at 
Kirkwall at 6.30 on October 2nd, and myself and armed 
guard returned to H.M.S. Mantua at 4 p.m. on 
October 7th." 


Yet another example of outstanding seamanship, this 
time on the part of one of the larger vessels of the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron, was that of the Hildebrand, which inter- 
cepted and boarded on October 16th the Norwegian 
steamer Corona, bound from Baltimore to Bergen with a 
load of grain. Her master having stated that his ship had 
sprung a leak and was sinking, the crew of the Corona 
was taken on board the Hildebrand, which stood by the 
damaged vessel. The crew were thoroughly examined, 
six of them, who had joined at Baltimore, being placed 
under arrest on account of their suspicious character. 
In the meanwhile the Otway had been directed to proceed 
at full speed to assume charge of possible salvage opera- 
tions, intercepting en route, and sending into Kirkwall 
with an armed guard, the Danish steamer United States, 
which was proceeding east with 312 passengers, amongst 
whom was a well-known Austrian aviator, Guido von 

It was at midnight that the Corona had first been inter- 
cepted by the Hildebrand, and by half-past eight the 
next morning it was discovered that she had made 
18 inches of water above the stokehold. The leak, how- 
ever, appeared to be a small one and confined to the 
engine-room and stokehold, and accordingly an attempt 
at towing was undertaken at a quarter to one. At half- 
past five the steamer's cable, which was being used in con- 
junction with the wire hawsers, parted, but in spite of the 
very heavy sea that was running at the time, she was 
once more taken in tow shortly before 9 o'clock and 
headed for Stornoway. In view of the darkness of the 
night, the heavy seas that were running, and the presence 
of possible submarines, this was an exceptionally skilful 
and daring piece of seamanship on the part of Captain 
Edwards, R.N., to which the attention of the Admiralty 
was afterwards drawn by Admiral Jellicoe, in command 
of the Grand Fleet. Unfortunately Captain Edwards' 
efforts were not destined to be successful, and at 11 
o'clock on the following morning the Corona had to be 
sunk, as she was likely to become a danger to navigation. 

That the Hildebrand, and indeed all the vessels of the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron, were often, in spite of their 
policing functions, friends in need, was again made clear 
when, on October 30th, this vessel intercepted the Danish 


sailing-ship Haracaibo and supplied her with eight days' 
provisions, the heavy south-easterly gales having pre- 
vented her from making any headway towards Lerwick, 
her port of destination. 

Throughout the rest of October, and indeed at frequent 
intervals throughout the whole of the following two 
months, the patrol work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
was carried on in the face of such weather as has already 
been described in the experiences of the preceding three 
officers. Vessels to be examined were almost daily boarded 
under conditions of wind and sea that in ordinary times 
would have seemed to involve the highest degree of risk. 
Often the weather was so bad that even by the storm-ex- 
perienced boarding-parties of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
it was found impossible to get a footing upon suspected 
vessels ; and on these occasions it was frequently found 
necessary to follow such vessels and, in some cases, to lie 
to while keeping them in company. In a letter to the 
Admiralty at this period Lord Jellicoe drew attention to 
the fact that " very heavy weather was experienced by 
the patrols " and that " a number of ships were boarded 
and armed guards placed on board in most difficult 

Another type of difficulty, and one that illustrates the 
tax that was at all times placed upon the tact and 
initiative of the responsible officers, may be exemplified 
in the experience of the armed guard from the Columbella, 
which was placed on board the American sailing-ship 
Andrew Welch on November 2nd. After sighting several 
submarines, the Andrew Welch rounded Muckle Flugga 
on November 6th, in an attempt to make Lerwick, under 
the usual stormy conditions. She spoke to a patrol-boat 
off Noss Head, which directed her to heave to, but dis- 
appeared again from sight without rendering her any 
assistance. The weather becoming worse, the master of 
the Andrew Welch wished to make for the port of Helm- 
stadt, in Norway, and on the refusal of the officer in 
charge of the armed guard to allow this, the crew of the 
Andrew Welch struck work. As the armed guard was, 
of course, quite insufficient for working the ship, a com- 
promise had necessarily to be made, and the officer in 
charge agreed to try and attempt to make the port of 
Aberdeen. On November 11th the little vessel accord- 


ingly arrived off Girdleness, where signals were made for 
a pilot and a small steamer was spoken, which promised 
to send out a tug. The tug did not arrive, however, and the 
heavy gale from the north-north-west obliged the Andrew 
Welch to remain hove to for three whole days and nights. 
Once more the crew refused to work, and as the water supply 
was getting very low and the pumps were failing to draw, 
the officer of the guard was at last obliged to run for the 
nearest Norwegian port, Christiansund, where he put 
himself into communication with the British Consul, and 
whence, with his armed guard, he was subsequently allowed 
to return home. That such instances of insubordination 
were rare is perhaps the best tribute to the firmness and 
humour with which these officers, many of them little 
more than boys, carried out their difficult and delicate 

The transition year of 1915, during which, as we have 
seen, the nature, personnel, and technical equipment of the 
patrol had had to be very considerably modified as well 
as amplified owing to the unprecedented and unforeseen 
exigencies of a sea blockade under modern war conditions, 
was now drawing to an end, and Admiral de Chair was able 
to give a summary of the work done under these trying 
conditions. Despite the weather, the almost constant 
presence of enemy submarines, the losses of time and 
material as the result of inevitable accidents, and the 
primitive nature of the island bases upon which the patrol 
largely depended, the ships of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
had patrolled, without intermission, an area of 220,000 
square miles. During this time 3,068 ships had been 
intercepted on the high seas and carefully examined. 
Of this number, 743 were found to be carrying contraband 
and otherwise suspicious cargoes, and had been in conse- 
quence sent to British ports for examination and confis- 
cation of cargo as considered desirable by the authorities 
in charge. 

During the twelve months, the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
had lost two ships by submarine attack, the Bayano and 
India ; two by mines, the Viknor and the Arlanza ; and 
one by foundering at sea in heavy weather, the Clan 
Macnaughton.'^ With these ships there had gone down 
some 63 officers and 800 men. With regard to the armed 

1 The Arlanza was brought into harbour. 


guards placed on intercepted vessels, some typical experi- 
ences of which have already been recorded, the casualties 
sustained by these were remarkably few, only one guard 
being taken prisoner, while two had their prizes sunk under 
them by submarines. Of the vessels intercepted, 90 
were American, 857 Norwegian, 300 Swedish, 606 Danish, 
8 Dutch, 1 Spanish, and 1 Argentine. In addition 264 
British vessels, 17 French, 124 Russian, 2 Belgian, and 
1 Italian were examined, while 7 other vessels of unknown 
nationality were also intercepted. In addition to these, 
817 fishing-craft of seven different nationalities came 
under notice and were examined. 

Even more, perhaps, to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
than to any other portion of the British sea services 
during the war was the value of wireless telegraphy under 
modern war conditions apparent. Continually moving 
from place to place in the course of their patrol, covering 
in so doing enormous distances, and seldom in sight of one 
another, the efficient control of the ships of the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron would have been impossible without the 
aid of wireless telegraphy. How great a reliance was 
placed upon it during the year 1915 may be gathered 
from the fact that a daily average of twenty-one signals 
was sent and forty-six signals received by the one senior 
officer alone of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, an average, 
throughout the year, of one signal every twenty-one 
minutes, although the amount of such signalling was 
strictly reduced to the smallest possible minimum. 

Throughout the year, except during brief periods in 
M^hich she had to go to port for coaling and repairs, 
the Alsatian remained the flagship of the Tenth 
Cruiser Squadron, under the command of Rear-Admiral 
Dudley de Chair, Commodore Benson taking over the 
command in his absence. For 262 days the Alsatian 
was at sea, steaming during that time 71,500 miles and 
using 40,287 tons of coal, a record that may be taken as 
typical of the work of each ship of the squadron. 

The year went out in gales. The character of the 
weather is reflected in the story of the wreck of the 
British steamer Morning in lat. 62° 21' N., long. 6° W., 
when the patrol-ship Cedric rescued the master (Mr. Andrew 
Smith) and the second officer (Mr. Joe Hansen). The 
steamer — a Dundee whaler — was loaded with ammunition 


at Brest and was on her way to Archangel. She left 
Queenstown on December 21st, and after bunkering in 
the Faeroes was spoken by the Alsatian on December 22nd 
during a south-easterly gale. The master stated that 
after leaking for two days, due to working of ship, she 
foundered on the morning of December 24th in lat. 
64° 15' N., long. 7° W. With the exception of the second 
mate and himself, the crew were drowned, the boats being 
stove in. Both men were much exhausted, having been 
four days in an open boat in bad and very cold weather. 

Admiral Jellicoe was in no doubt as to the devotion 
exhibited by officers and men of the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron. He reported to the Admiralty at the close of 
1915 that he was " fully in agreement " with Rear-Admiral 
de Chair in praising the work which they had done under 
conditions of much difficulty and in the face of great 
dangers. " The work of officers and men," he remarked, 
" merits the highest commendation." 

As the Old Year closed in gales, so did 1916 open with 
fierce winds and high seas. The Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
in maintaining the blockade of the enemy, had to struggle 
against a variety of difficulties during winter days and 
nights. Under such circumstances it was not, therefore, 
surprising that orders could not sometimes be carried out, 
and in a typical failure to do so, owing to overwhelming 
handicaps, the significance of the work successfully accom- 
plished can better perhaps be appreciated. As an example 
we have the adventures of a young officer of the Royal 
Naval Reserve, Lieutenant S. F. Carter, who had been 
placed, on December 21st, in charge of an armed guard 
consisting of one midshipman and four seamen, on board 
the Norwegian barque Skomvaer. Provided with supplies 
for eight days, and with orders to take the Skomvaer into 
Lerwick, it was not until January 1st, owing to the strong 
easterly winds, that Lieutenant Carter was able at last 
to make a run for this port. During the interval, in which 
he had been beating about, he had fallen in with other 
vessels of the patrol, the Orotava on December 26th, who 
had supplied him with provisions for a further eight days, 
and the Cedric on January 1st, who had given him pro- 
visions for another five days. On January 1st, the wind 
veering to the south-west, he was able at last to run toward 
Lerwick, passing Muckle Flugga two days later at 2.30 


p.m., and arriving off Lerwick in the first watch. For 
five whole days, however, it w^as a case of being so near 
and yet so far, and owing to the contrary and baffling 
winds, he was unable actually to get into port. By 
January 8th, so fierce was the gale blowing from the 
northward, that he decided at last to run his vessel into 
Kirkwall, but on the evening of the next day the wind 
fell back to the south-west, and he once more headed, 
according to his orders, for Lerwick. 

On January 10th a gale was blowing from the west-north- 
w^est, and in the forenoon the master informed him that 
provisions, water, and oil were all running short, and the crew 
complained to the master respecting the safety of the ship. 
The sea was then running so high that at 5 p.m. the master 
insisted that the ship must run for safety, and Lieutenant 
Carter reluctantly consented, and accordingly ran to the 
south-eastward. On the next day the Norwegian coast 
was sighted, in a period of calm between heavy snow 
squalls, and on January 12th, shortly after noon, a pilot 
w^as picked up. The Skomvaer then tried to make either 
the port of Stavanger or Haugesund, but was eventually 
taken in tow by two small tugs on January 13th and towed 
into Flekkefjord, where she arrived early in the morning 
of January 14th, more than three weeks after Lieutenant 
Carter had boarded her with his armed guard. 

On January 15th the weather was once more so bad 
that the patrols were forced to lie to, the wind increasing 
to hurricane force. So fierce was the gale that the Orotava, 
which was at Swarbacks Minn for the purpose of coaling, 
dragged both anchors and was unable to complete her 
coaling. The boom-gate vessel of the port also dragged 
her anchors, so that the entrance to the harbour was 
temporarily blocked, while the shore end of the boom net 
defence, which was secured round a large rock, was carried 
away owing to the splitting of the rock under the enor- 
mous strain. Four days later the Duke of Cornwall, 
which had left Swarbacks Minn to return to Longhope with 
despatches, was also forced to put back to harbour owing 
to the heavy seas running, while ships coaling at Busta 
Voe were obliged to stop coaling and raise steam, some of 
them dragging their anchors, although all had two anchors 
down. The next day the Patia reported that, while hove 
to, she had shipped so heavy a sea that her bridge had 


been seriously damaged and an officer injured, while at 
Swarbacks Minn, in going alongside the Artois, the collier 
came into collision with her, making a hole in the port 
bow with the crown of her starboard anchor. On 
January 21st the Orotava reported that her wheelhouse 
and all bridge fittings had been smashed by a heavy sea, 
and that she had been obliged to run before the gale, 
endeavouring, but unsuccessfully, to use her hand- 
steering gear. On Januarj'^ 22nd, owing to the heavy 
weather, the gate of the boom at Swarbacks Minn was 
damaged and sank below the surface in the centre and 
could not be opened, while the main deck in the store- 
room passage on the starboard side of the Orcoma was 
buckled by about seven-eighths of an inch. The persist- 
ence of the patrol in continuing its work under such 
conditions is perhaps evidenced by the fact that no less 
than ten vessels were intercepted in that stormy week, 
eight of them being sent into port. 

Of the skill and stout-heartedness that made such a 
record possible in such conditions, an admirable instance 
is afforded by the experience, a day or two later, of the 
Ebro. This vessel, on January 24th, intercepted the 
Norwegian barque Beechbank, with an armed guard on 
board, in lat. 61° 25' N., long. 1° 50' E. The barque was 
trying to make Lerwick, but had lost her fore and maintop 
masts, her mizzen and top-gallant mast, and nearly all 
her sails and boats. As the barque herself was com- 
paratively undamaged, however, the Ebro resolved to 
endeavour to take her in tow, but could not at first suc- 
ceed in doing so, owing to the heavy weather. There was 
nothing for it, therefore, but for the Ebro to stand by till 
morning, the crew of the Beechbank proving themselves 
somewhat difficult to handle and refusing to go aloft. 
The cutting away of the mizzen and top sail and other 
work aloft had, therefore, to be carried out by the Royal 
Naval Reserve officers of the armed guard. Lieutenant 
Wynn, and the master of the ship, Lieutenant Wynn 
taking complete charge after the dismantling had been 

On the following day the weather continued very bad, 
with a gale from the west-south-west, and the sea ran 
so high that it was found impossible to communicate by 
boat, while the Ebro herself, being in light condition, with 


only 22 per cent, of coal remaining, became somewhat 
unmanageable. This difficulty was overcome by veering 
an anchor and six shackles of cable, a dangerous experi- 
ment, but one that justified itself in steadying the Ebro 
and enabling hawsers to be got on board the other vessel 
by means of a rocket and a buoyed line drifting to 

The Beechbank was thus eventually got into tow with 
a 6-inch and 5 i -inch wire and 90 fathoms of her chain 
cable. By half an hour after noon, the Ebro and Beech- 
bank were on their way to Lerwick at a maximum speed 
of 2 knots, with the Alcantara standing by as a defence 
against submarine attack. Throughout the night, in 
spite of heavy weather, the Ebro succeeded in towing 
the Beechbank towards her destination, and was at last 
successful in reaching Lerwick at 10 o'clock on the morning 
of January 27th. Had Commander Dugmore of the 
Ebro not succeeded in taking the Beechbank in tow, she 
would almost inevitably have been lost, as she was being 
driven by the gale on to a lee shore. For their work in 
this connection. Commander Dugmore, R.N., of the 
Ebro, and Lieutenant Wynn, R.N.R., in charge of the 
armed guard in the Beechbank, received the special com- 
mendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. 

Till the end of the month the weather continued rough 
and difficult, but nevertheless during the last seven days 
of January twenty-one vessels were intercepted and 
examined and five sent into port. Nor did February 
open more auspiciously, as can be gathered from the 
incidents that followed the interception, on February 2nd, 
of the Danish sailing-ship Vigilant by the patrol-vessel 
Artois. At the first attempt of the latter to send a party 
on board, there was an accident with the boat and a 
man fell overboard. He was picked up, however, and 
the Vigilant was safely reached. It was found that her 
foremast was gone, and her rigging in such a bad state 
that the master requested that he and his crew should be 
taken on board the Artois. This was done with very 
great difficulty, owing to the weather, and an attempt 
was then made to tow the derelict vessel, which was 
loaded with wood and leaking badly. The weather became 
worse, however, and it was found impossible to get the 
Vigilant in tow, the Artois consequently standing by her 


for the night. As the Vigilant had been bound for 
Morocco, and as it was considered most desirable to get her 
to Stornoway in order that she might be well searched, 
in view of the possibility that she might be carrying 
stores for enemy submarines in the Mediterranean, the 
Orco7na was also sent by Rear-Admiral de Chair to 
stand b^^ 

Throughout the next day the Artois continued to keep 
in touch with the Vigilant, but was unable to take her 
in tow on account of the high seas. On February 4th 
the weather improved a little and the Or coma helped 
the Artois in taking the Vigilant in tow, and they pro- 
ceeded towards Stornoway at a speed of 4 knots, the 
Mantua subsequently joining them in order to protect 
them from submarine attack. On February 5th, owing 
to the gale increasing again, the Artois's speed was reduced 
to 1 knot, a further escort consisting of a yacht, two 
whalers, and a tug, which had been ordered out from 
Stornoway, being unable to join them owing to the stormy 
weather. On the evening of that day the Artois arrived 
under the lee of the Butt of Lewis, and at last, on 
February 6th, she succeeded, in spite of the force of a 
full gale, in safely arriving with her prize at Stornoway. 
Great care had to be taken in overhauling and boarding 
prizes in case they might be raiders in disguise. 

While the work of the patrol was thus continuing, under 
conditions of the utmost difficulty, the cliief event of the 
month was the action which took place on Tuesday, 
February 29th, between the Alcantara and Andes and the 
German raider Greif, which resulted in the loss of the 
Alcantara after a fierce and plucky fight, and the subse- 
quent destruction of the Greif hy the guns of the Andes. 

On February 29th, 1916, at 8.45 a.m., the Alcantara, 
when on patrol, sighted smoke on her port beam and, 
steering towards it, sighted a steamer flying the Nor- 
wegian flag and steaming north-east. Acting under 
previous orders. Captain Wardle took care to find out 
all about her before getting within 4,000 yards. He 
inquired her name by signals, and was told she was the 
Rena from South America with a cargo of coffee. Lloyd's 
Register proved the existence of a ship of that name, so 
Captain Wardle closed, signalling to the stranger to stop 
her engines. When she had done so, the Alcantara, 


getting M'ithin 2,000 yards, with her guns manned and 
all ready for action, examined her carefully, and approached 
from right astern to board. When about 1,000 yards 
distant, the Rena's ensign staff, carrying the Norwegian 
flag, dropped over the stern, her steering house on the poop 
disappeared, disclosing a gun ; flaps fell down on the ship's 
side, and guns opened fire, the German ensign being 
hoisted at the moment. The Alcantara replied at once 
with her bow guns. The opposing vessel was hit repeatedly, 
receiving serious injury. In desperation the mysterious 
vessel discharged torpedoes, but without success. 

The action had lasted about forty minutes, when the 
enemy abandoned ship owing to the fierce fires which 
had broken out, and Captain Wardle ceased firing. The 
Alcantara had been badly holed in the water-line, and, 
listing to port, turned on her side and sank at 11 a.m. 
The Andes, being the next ship on patrol, had closed on 
receiving the Alcantara's signals, and came up in time to 
take part in the action and sink the enemy. The Comus 
and MuNSTER, which had also arrived on the scene, helped 
to finish off the enemy and pick up survivors. An officer 
and 110 men of the enemy ship were rescued. The 
German prisoners admitted that the sunken vessel was 
the Greif. She had been secretly converted into a raider 
at Hamburg, and was carrying a crew of 360 officers and 
men. She had left Germany a few days earlier and was 
making for the Atlantic to raid commerce. She had not 
reckoned on the vigilance of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, 
and her loss was a severe disappointment to the Germans. 

By this time the blockade was proving highly efficient. 
It was not until it had been in operation for some time 
that smooth working was secured. The whole system 
represented an innovation, and day by day experience 
suggested ways in which the efficiency of the system could 
be improved. At first the Customs House officers, accus- 
tomed to the routine of a Free Trade policy, found it 
difficult to adjust themselves to new conditions. It had 
hitherto been their habit to board incoming merchant 
ships and to content themselves with a formal inquiry 
for dutiable wines, spirits, or cigars, making examinations 
only when the circumstances were suspicious. When the 
new regime of the blockade was introduced, some of the 
masters of neutral ships, familiar with the ordinary routine. 


would produce a few bottles of whisky and allow the 
Customs officers formally to seal them. This apparent 
honesty, there was afterwards reason to believe, was 
intended to divert attention from contraband carefully 
hidden away in the bottom of the hold. A few weeks 
of experience of the blockade worked wonders, and the 
Customs officers were so " knowing " that all the devices 
adopted to elude the blockade proved fruitless. Probably 
never before did an enemy, and those in collusion with 
him, adopt so many ingenious ruses. Among them a 
few may be mentioned as a matter of interest : 

(1) Double bottoms, decks, and bulkheads, concealed 
guns, rifles, and other firearms and ammunition. 

(2) Copper keels and copper plates on sailing-ships. 

(3) Hollow masts. 

(4) Rubber onions. These were discovered when a 
British officer dropped one on the deck. " The onion 
bounced 10 feet into the air." 

(5) Rubber concealed in coffee sacks. 

(6) Cotton concealed in barrels of flour. 

(7) Rubber honey, made in the form of honeycomb 
filled with a curious liquid mixture. 

(8) False manifests. This was the most frequent form 
of "faking." In several instances, where the captain of 
the neutral realised that the " game was up," he produced 
both the genuine and the false manifests for boarding- 
officers to compare ; a form of frankness not without its 
element of humour. 

But, in spite of every artifice, and in spite also of gales 
of wind, high seas, fogs, and a variety of difficulties, the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron had succeeded in interrupting 
most of the trade by sea which the enemy was endeavouring 
to carry on. 

The success of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron and the 
course of events generally since the war had opened had 
created a new situation as far as the blockade was con- 
cerned. At the outbreak of war absolute contraband 
consisted only of those articles which were exclusively 
of military character, such as guns, ammunition, etc. 

Conditional contraband included foodstuffs, but they 
had to be destined for the use of the fleets and armies of 
the enemy. This left many of the important articles 
included under the heading of raw materials quite free. 


and it was only gradually that such were restricted. During 
this time the arduous work of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron 
was, in a great measure, being nullified by the release of 
ships carrying necessaries for the enemy, but finally the 
extreme dissatisfaction of the Navy (especially of the 
officers and men employed in the blockade) became ap- 
parent to the Government, and the establishment of a 
Ministry of Blockade, with headquarters at the Foreign 
Office, was determined upon. In March 1916 it was de- 
cided to appoint Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair as naval 
adviser in order to bring his great experience to bear on 
the problem, and try to make the blockade work of the 
Navy more directly effective. Consequently, on March 
6th, 1916, he hauled down his flag to take up his tem- 
porary appointment at the Foreign Office, subsequently 
being selected to represent the British Navy on Mr. 
Balfour's War Mission to the United States of America 
in 1917. 

In a speech at Montreal University on May 31st, 1917, 
on the occasion of the Honorary Degree of LL.D. being 
conferred on Admiral de Chair, Mr. A. J. Balfour, who 
had served for some months as First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty, recalled that that officer, during " the long early 
months of the war," was in command of the Tenth Cruiser 
Squadron, " which practically carried out, single-handed, 
the blockade of Germany — night and day through summer 
and winter in the stormiest seas to be found anywhere on 
the face of the globe." "The Squadron under his com- 
mand," Mr. Balfour added, " carried out, untiring, un- 
checked, and with unqualified success, the great task with 
which they had been entrusted. While we remember and 
know these things, there are two great branches on which, 
perhaps, our ordinary thoughts are least occupied. One 
is the unflinching service rendered by our Merchant Marine 
in the face of dangers never contemplated as incident to 
the life of a sailor, and not less than this is the work of that 
Cruiser Squadron to which I have referred, whose labours 
were more continuous, more important, and more successful 
than any other branch of His Majesty's naval forces." 
Sir Dudley de Chair was succeeded in command of the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron by Vice- Admiral Reginald Tupper. 




An incomplete picture of the extent and character of the 
operations of the AuxiHary Patrol would be presented if 
the impression were conveyed that its work was confined 
to the waters around the British Isles. From a compara- 
tively early date in the war, a demand for auxiliary craft 
came from the Mediterranean. At the beginning of 
November 1914 the Turkish forts on the Gallipoli Penin- 
sula had been bombarded for a short time, and in the 
following February a determined movement to force the 
Straits was initiated. It soon became apparent that 
the men-of-war engaged in this operation were as 
dependent for safety on mine-sweeping trawlers as were 
the vessels of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. Hopes 
of forcing the Dardanelles rested on the success of trawlers 
in sweeping a clear passage for the battleships, cruisers, 
and destroyers, for the entrance was strongly defended 
by successive mine-fields. The demand for auxiliary 
craft in the Mediterranean became more insistent later on, 
when it became impossible to sweep in face of heavy fire 
from the shore batteries, and the men-of-war had to be 
content with rendering aid to the Allied military forces 
by distant bombardment of the Turkish batteries and 
positions. This change of tactics oflered to the enemy 
the opportunity of employing submarines, and several 
of these craft issued from the Adriatic to attack the 
bombarding vessels. The need thus arose for patrol 
trawlers and drifters provided with nets to assure the 
safety of the men-of-war. 

Another stage in the operations opened on Italy entering 
the war on the side of the Entente on May 23rd, 1915. 
By this time German and Austrian submarines, operating 
from Cattaro, had been encouraged by the disadvantages 
which the neutrality of Italy had inflicted on the Allies, 



to attack the maritime lines of communication between 
the Straits of Gibraltar and the Dardanelles, thronged 
with men-of-war and supply ships, and eventually they 
threatened the trade route between the northern end 
of the Suez Canal and the Atlantic, over which essential 
supplies of goods of various kinds were being conveyed 
from the Far East and the Antipodes. This phase of the 
enemy's activities led to a determined attempt on the part 
of the Allies to restrict the use of the submarine bases 
on Cattaro and Pola, an operation facilitated by Italy's 
entrance into the war. This problem closely resembled 
those presented, respectively, by the Straits of Dover and 
the North Channel, to which allusion has already been 
made. Whilst Cattaro in the Adriatic corresponded 
roughly to the position of Zeebrugge in the Straits of 
Dover, in the case of the North Channel the enemy's 
submarine bases were several hundred miles distant. 
Since the problem of defending these three Straits had 
much in common, the tactics adopted were very similar. 
When the position in the Mediterranean became critical, 
drifters were dispatched by the Admiralty to shoot their 
nets in the Adriatic as they had done at the southern 
exit of the Irish Sea, as well as off Zeebrugge, in the hope 
of denying passage to the enemy submarines issuing 
from the Austrian ports. The defensive measures in the 
Mediterranean had, of course, to be varied owing to 
differences in depths and distances, but generally the 
problems of the three straits were identical in character. 
The various stages in the operations of the auxiliary 
craft in the Mediterranean may be stated with advantage 
in chronological order. On January 19th, 1915, arrange- 
ments were made by the Admiralty to collect twenty-one 
mine-sweeping trawlers as soon as possible and dispatch 
them to the Dardanelles. They were to be sent first to 
Devonport, to be coaled and provisioned. Of this twenty- 
one, seven were selected from Grimsby and fourteen from 
Lowestoft. On January 28th thirteen of them set out from 
Devonport under Commander William Mellor, in the traw- 
ler Escallonia, and the remaining eight followed a few 
days later, after remedying certain engine-room defects. 
The first trawlers began to arrive at Gibraltar on 
February 3rd, and the next day left for Malta. Four days 
later these vessels put into Malta, where they were fitted 


out for the dangerous work that was awaiting them. 
The Dardanelles campaign could not begin — so telegraphed 
the Commander-in-Chief — until the arrival of these craft, 
so important had the fishing-vessel become in modern 
naval warfare. By February 21st the whole of the twenty- 
one trawlers had assembled at Malta, of which four had 
sailed for the Dardanelles on February 15th and another 
four two days later. 

On February 25th the trawlers began their task of 
sweeping at the entrance to the Dardanelles, covered 
by a division of battleships accompanied by destroyers. 
Within two days they had swept a distance of four miles 
from the entrance of the Straits, no mines having been 
found. The plan was that the trawlers should first clear 
areas in which the battleships could manoeuvre for the 
purpose of bombarding the enemy's forts. But it was when 
the sweepers approached the Narrows that the trouble 
began, for at this position the enemy had laid line after 
line of mines between the Asiatic and European shores. 
Furthermore he had protected these mines by batteries 
and searchlights. There was a strong current running 
down towards the Dardanelles Straits further impeding 
the work of the trawlers. The undertaking of the trawlers 
was therefore difficult as well as dangerous and, as events 
were to prove, impossible in spite of all the courage, 
seamanship, and tenacity of purpose exhibited by the 
fishermen in face of dangers they had never thought to 
confront. On March 1st these little ships steamed up 
under cover of darkness, protected by destroyers. They 
swept to within three thousand yards of Kephez Point. 
It was a bright moonlit night. When abreast of the 
Suandere Biver, the enemy's batteries opened such a 
fierce bombardment that the trawlers had to retire, the 
destroyers aiding their withdrawal by making a smoke 
screen. Fortunately none of the trawlers was hit, and 
Admiral Carden telegraphed to the Admiralty that the 
sweepers were doing excellent work. 

But at this date neither the magnitude of the Dardanelles 
task nor the hopelessness of the mine-sweeping trawlers' 
efforts was appreciated. The key to the ' problem of 
advance was the mine-fields at the Narrows. The battle- 
ships and cruisers were held up till the fishermen, recently 
arrived from the North Sea, could clear a wide channel 



in the face of powerful batteries and forts. During the 
night of March 6th-7th the sweepers, protected by the 
light cruiser Amethyst and destroyers, again essayed the 
task, and were once more driven back by the enemy's 
guns. During the night of March lOth-llth seven more 
trawlers, attended by two picket-boats fitted with explosive 
creeps, and supported by H.M.S. Canopus, Amethyst, 
and destroyers, once more entered the Dardanelles and 
proceeded up the Straits. The protecting vessels opened 
fire on the batteries and searchlights which guarded the 
Kephez mine-fields, but it proved impossible to extinguish 
the lights by gunfire. In spite of the enemy's heavy fire, 
the trawlers Escallonia, Avon, Manx Hero, Syringa, 
Beatrice II, Gwenllian, and Soldier Prince, together with 
the picket-boats, succeeded in getting above the mine-field, 
the intention being to sweep down with the current. 

In this inferno of invisible mines, blinding searchlights, 
and bursting shells, the position of the trawlermen was not 
an enviable one. The result was that only one pair of 
sweepers succeeded in getting out their sweep, securing a 
couple of mines. The trawler Manx Hero struck a mine, 
blew up, and sank, though the crew were picked up. 
Two trawlers were struck by shells and a couple of men 
wounded. It is remarkable that any of these dauntless 
men escaped the ordeal, for all the vessels were under 
heavy fire from 6-inch guns and weapons of lesser calibre. 
Although the first pair of trawlers had succeeded in getting 
out their sweep, it is matter for little surprise that both 
the second and third pair failed to run a proper sweep, 
with the result that little progress was made that night. 

On the following night another group of trawlers made the 
effort, and in view of their experience their names should be 
perpetuated. They consisted of the Restrivo, Vidonia, 
Star of the Emjnre, Frascati, Fentonian, Strathlossie, and 
Strathord. The plan was to be the same as had been 
adopted on the previous night. Similar misfortunes were 
again encountered. As soon as the sweepers entered the 
rays of the searchlights, the enemy's guns opened fire 
and seven shells dropped over the trawlers. The sweepers, 
realising the odds which were against them, absolutely 
defenceless against such attack, turned sixteen points and 
retired. But let no one dare to call these men cowards ! 
Throughout the whole war these fishermen and their 


R.N.R. officers were never frightened of mines or sub- 
marines, which they attacked with the greatest possible 
gallantry whenever they encountered them ; but it was 
quite another matter to take these men straight from 
the North Sea and turn them, ordinary fishermen, into 
conspicuous targets for field-guns and forts. No harder 
or more dispiriting a task was ever set the vessels of 
the Auxiliary Patrol throughout the war than that of 
sweeping the Dardanelles Straits. The dice were so 
loaded against them that the sweepers had no chance. 
To have been successful the operation required very fast 
craft fitted with efficient gear, and very highly and speci- 
ally trained crews ; moreover, the work had to be done 
by day, if at all. As it was, the sweeping was carried 
out by night by slow trawlers handicapped by the current, 
whose officers and men were inexperienced and had never 
before been under shell fire. 

In the circumstances, it was decided to stiffen the crews 
with volunteer officers and men from the Royal Navy, 
and volunteers were speedily forthcoming. But not even 
with this aid was it possible to get to Kephez. On 
March 18th the Restrivo and five sister vessels made the 
attempt — by daylight this time. One pair got out their 
sweep, but owing to the fire from howitzers and field 
guns they were unable to reach Kephez. The reorganisa- 
tion of the mine-sweeping flotilla at the Dardanelles indeed 
was to prove a lengthy operation. Many of the original 
crews who had brought out these trawlers were unwilling 
to continue sweeping under heavy fire and were sent back 
to home waters, where they performed excellent work. 
Their places were taken by volunteer crews. Roughly 
about half of the original trawler ratings were recalled home 
— to the number of about one hundred. There were plenty 
left behind to continue to assist in the work. The 
admiration of the naval authorities found expression in 
the recommendation by Admiral de Robeck to the Admir- 
alty for the award of a D.S.O. to Skipper Alfred Swain, 
of the trawler Escallonia, and Skipper Alfred E. Berry, 
of the trawler Frascaii. These skippers and their men 
had been constantly under fire, but still continued to serve 
in the Dardanelles campaign. By April 7th the Com- 
mander-in-Chief had discontinued mine-sweeping inside 
the Straits, as he considered that the results did not 


justify the risks which had to be run from the fire of the 
enemy. Thus, until the end of the war, these mines were 
never swept, and therefore the fleet never penetrated 
the Narrows. A change in tactics occurred and the work 
of the Navy consisted in supporting the Army. 

This change involved further work for the trawlers, 
though of a different character. They were required to 
carry out all sorts of unfamiliar duties in support of the 
naval operations. As an illustration, some account may be 
given of the events of April 25th, a day which will always 
be known in the Antipodes as " Anzac Day." The first 
landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops north 
of Gaba Tepe was carried out under the orders of Rear- 
Admiral Cecil F. Thursby, with whose squadron fifteen 
trawlers were associated. In reporting upon this opera- 
tion, Admiral de Robeck wrote : "I should like to place 
on record the good service performed by the vessels 
employed in landing the second part of the covering force : 
the seamanship displayed and the rapidity with which so 
large a force was thrown on the beach is deserving of the 
highest praise." Similarly at the southern extremity of 
the Gallipoli Peninsula the fourteen trawlers under Rear- 
Admiral R. E. Wemyss performed excellent work. By 
this time the Admiralty were dispatching reinforcements 
from England to Admiral de Robeck's fleet. On March 
15th Lowestoft had been ordered to send thirty of the 
fastest mine-sweeping trawlers to Falmouth, en route 
for Gibraltar, Malta, and Lemnos. Eight fleet-sweepers, 
including railway steamers which had been attached to the 
Grand Fleet in the early stages of the war, but had been 
found unsuitable for the duty, were now dispatched to the 
Dardanelles, calling at Plymouth. On March 17th the 
Lowestoft trawlers left and they reached Plymouth two 
days later. At Malta they were fitted with armour- 
plating to protect winches and wheelhouses, and then they 
continued their voyage to the Dardanelles. 

But in addition to the trawlers needed by the Army 
for many services, there presently devolved on them the 
duty of maintaining an anti-submarine patrol. Germany 
had come to realise how seriously her war plans would be 
affected if success attended the effort to force a way through 
the Dardanelles. So she determined that she herself 
would supplement the submarines which Austria-Hungary 


had hitherto been operating. At first she dispatched 
only small submarines of the U-boat type. These craft 
had to be sent out in sections overland to Austria and 
were put together there. They were based on Cattaro 
and operated in the -<Egean. One of these vessels, UB3, 
perished on a mine-field off Smyrna soon after she had 
been put afloat. 

In view of the grave construction which was put upon 
the Allies' plans for bringing pressure on Turkey, the 
Germans decided on a yet more ambitious attempt to 
intervene. U21 was dispatched from Ems on Anzac Day 
(April 25th) under Lieutenant-Commander Hersing. He 
shaped a course round Scotland. He was to test the 
practicability of conducting a submarine campaign in 
the Mediterranean with submarines which had hitherto 
operated in the waters surrounding the British Isles. 
The event is important inasmuch as it marked a new 
epoch in the use of the submarine. U21 was the first 
German submarine to proceed to the Mediterranean under 
her own power, and it was the longest voyage which 
any such craft had hitherto accomplished unaccompanied 
and under war conditions. On May 13th she reached 
Cattaro, and a week later left there for the Dardanelles, 
where, on May 25th, she torpedoed and sunk H.M.S, 
Triumph, and two days later destroyed H.M.S. Majestic. 
On June 5th she proceeded to Constantinople. 

The result of this fresh development of the submarine 
campaign was that new and extended plans had to be 
made for protecting the bombarding ships. It was at 
once decided to send out twenty more trawlers, as well 
as thirty net drifters. From Poole thirty drifters, with 
nets, indicator buoys, fourteen days' coal — half a dozen 
of them being also armed with a 3-pounder apiece — ■ 
started out for the Dardanelles in the early hours of 
June 5th, reached Gibraltar on June 13th ; they left for 
the eastward two days later. The twenty trawlers had to 
be taken up specially. They were sent to Falmouth, 
where each was armed either with a 3-pounder or a 
6-pounder gun and given extra crew accommodation ; 
the ventilating arrangements were improved and wind sails 
were provided so as to fit them for service in the heat of 
the ^gean. By June 9th these twenty vessels had started 
for the voyage south. 


Some idea of the work which fell to these Dardanelles 
trawlers may be conveyed in a few sentences. On 
July 4th the trawler Lord Wimborne was engaged from 
9.30 p.m. until 5.30 the following morning landing troops 
alongside the River Clyde. She was compelled to make 
seven different attempts, but each time was spotted by the 
powerful searchlight mounted in Chanak, and promptly 
shelled. The trawlers and trawlermen were the admira- 
tion of the soldiers whom they saved during the preceding 
weeks from starvation. Throughout the month of July 
the greatest strain of the Dardanelles naval warfare was 
borne by the trawlers employed in towing barges and 
transporting wounded men, loading ammunition by night 
for the Peninsula. The men had little chance of getting 
sleep, and the craft were infested most of the time with 
flies, which spoiled the crews' food. 

So rapidly had this auxiliary force grown, that at the 
beginning of July Admiral de Robeck had under his 
command 47 trawler mine-sweepers, 31 net-drifters, 20 
armed trawlers, 7 fleet-sweepers, and 4 motor patrol- 
boats, of which 3 had come out from England. One 
of the fleet-sweepers had been equipped for mine-laying. 
On June 2nd a blockade of Smyrna had been declared, 
and it was being maintained by a destroyer and various 
other craft, including a couple of trawlers and two motor 
gunboats of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve, com- 
manded by R.N.V.R. officers. Within a few weeks U21 
had been followed by other U-boats from Germany, bound 
for Cattaro, and thence to the Dardanelles, and by the 
end of August every available trawler in the ^gean, 
which was not employed either in handling supplies for 
the army or in escorting transports, was out on patrol 
searching for enemy submarines ; and net-drifters were 
also at work with their nets, protected by trawlers 
moving on an outer circle. 

During the autumn additional drifters and trawlers 
were sent out and employed in connection with the 
operations in Salonika ; while during the last months of the 
year auxiliary craft continued to perform other tasks, 
especially in regard to protecting the transports. During 
the evacuation of Suvla and Anzac, which took place on 
December 19th-20th, these small craft again proved indis- 
pensable, no fewer than 42,700 troops being taken off by the 


trawlers and fleet-sweepers. Meanwhile it was the duty of 
the net-drifters to protect the monitors and battleships 
while bombarding the enemy's coast. Finally, on January 
7th, 1916, and the following day, came the evacuation of 
Cape Helles, in which the trawlers took their full share of 
the work, being once again subjected to heavy shell-fire. 
But even with the evacuations from Gallipoli, the task 
of the trawlers was not ended. Daily at dawn they swept 
from Mudros boom defence for fifteen miles, and so serious 
was the menace to British merchant ships that a complete 
chain of patrols had to be maintained from JMalta to the 
JEge&n and all round the islands. Trawlers and drifters 
were compelled to pass monotonous days in carrying out 
these essential duties. They were well organised, armed 
with guns and lance bombs, and most of them also now had 
depth charges. 

Attention must now be turned to the Adriatic, where 
the trend of events had also made enormous demands on the 
craft of the Auxiliary Patrol. Three days after Italy's 
intervention in the war, Rear-Admiral Thursby had 
reached Taranto with a division of battleships. From 
the very first it was realised that it was absolutely neces- 
sary that the Austrian and German submarines based on 
Pola and Cattaro should, as far as possible, be thwarted. 
The Otranto Straits had to be denied to them. The 
intention was to station in these straits as many fishing- 
craft as could be provided, equipped with nets, just as 
in the Dover Straits, and supported by destroyers based 
on Brindisi and Valona, the operations being covered by 
aircraft. As has been stated, U21 had reached Cattaro 
on May 13th by sea, and previous to this date other 
submarines had arrived in the Adriatic overland. During 
the month of June these Adriatic submarines were most 
active. On June 9th H.M.S. Dublin, a light cruiser 
which had joined the Adriatic Squadron, was torpedoed 
whilst returning from the Albanian coast, but managed 
to reach Brindisi under her own steam. In the same 
week the Italian submarine Medusa was torpedoed by 
UBl5 and sunk whilst on her way to Venice. On 
July 7th the same submarine sank the Italian cruiser 
Amalfi. It was therefore evident that it was high 
time nets were at work to make the Otranto Straits 


At the end of August it was decided to send out drifters 
from England to the Adriatic. The necessity arose at an 
inopportune moment, for, owing to the great outburst 
of submarine activity during this month off the south- 
western approaches to the Enghsh Channel, more rather 
than fewer Auxiliary Patrol vessels were needed in home 
waters. However, drifter fishing was about to come to 
an end, and the opportunity was seized to take up 
some more Of these craft. The result was that sixty 
drifters were got ready for the Adriatic, Commander O. 
Hatcher, R.N., being appointed to command them. On 
the last day of August the first batch left Falmouth for 
the Adriatic, via Gibraltar, and by September 10th the 
whole of the sixty had arrived at Gibraltar. By the end 
of the month the last of the flotillas had reached Taranto, 
and by September 25th the first two divisions had been 
dispatched to lay their nets across the Otranto Straits. 

It was on October 12th that the first dramatic incident 
occurred to these craft. The line of drifters with their nets 
were laid across the Straits -v^'ithin but fifty miles of the 
enemy's base at Cattaro. At 8 o'clock that morning 
the drifter Restore was separated about three miles from the 
other drifters. She had for armament only a few rifles, 
and therefore was no match for the modern submarine 
with her gun or even guns. With the odds heavily 
against the little fishing-craft, an enemy U-boat, about 
four miles away, began to shell the Restore with two guns. 
The drifter was, of course, quite unable to maintain any 
engagement, so she blew her whistle, sent up rockets, and 
steamed towards Saseno Island to the north-eastward. 
Unfortunately one shell passed through the Restore, 
exploding in the engine-room, and disabled her. The 
drifter's crew had no alternative but to get into their 
boat, after which the U-boat, from about two miles, closed 
to twenty yards and again shelled the ship, sinking her 
within three minutes. Having attacked three other 
drifters, the U-boat steamed northward towards Cattaro. 
This experience was not without its sequel, for by 
November 13th all the Adriatic drifters had been armed. 
Admiral Thursby had sent a request to the Admiralty 
for more of these drifters. From Poole and Milford, where 
they had been serving, additional craft accordingly steamed 
to Falmouth, and a few days before Christmas thirty-five 


had reached Brindisi to supplement the work of the 
original sixty vessels. 

But in the meantime events of the first importance 
had been taking place ashore, no less than afloat. On 
the last day of November the Serbian army began its 
pathetic retreat through Albania towards the sea, and 
thenceforward the British drifters in the Adriatic had an 
exceptionally strenuous and hazardous time until the end 
of February. Vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were indis- 
pensable at this most critical period in the fortunes of the 
Serbians, To these drifters fell the duty of assisting in 
the evacuation of the Serbian army and thousands of 
refugees ; they were present at the landing of Italian 
troops at Valona ; and they were at hand at all times 
to succour disabled ships. Thus on December 4th, 1915, 
the Italian transport Re Umberto, while carrying troops to 
Valona, struck a mine off Cape Linguetta. In the vicinity 
were the drifters Evening Star and Lottie Leask, which 
proceeded alongside the sinking steamship. They threw 
all available ropes to her decks, and over five hundred 
soldiers were thus enabled to swarm on to the decks of 
the two drifters before the transport sank. Just in time 
to avoid disaster, the drifters succeeded in chopping away 
the ropes as the transport disappeared. In this way 
many lives were saved. " The fact that any were saved," 
wrote Admiral Thursby, " is due solely to the courage 
and gallantry displayed by the skippers and crews of 
these drifters." On the same day the Italian destroyer 
Intrepido was mined at the entrance to Valona, but the 
drifter Manzanita was close by, and her commanding 
officer, Lieutenant H. C. C. Fry, R.N.R., placed her 
alongside the destroyer, notwithstanding the risk of 
mines, and took off both officers and men. 

These small craft were always more or less directly 
exposed to attack by the enemy. For instance, on 
December 18th the drifter Lottie Leask, when twenty miles 
west-north-west of Saseno Island, was shelled by two 
submarines. The drifter was able to fire five rounds, 
but, after being hit as many times, began to sink and 
had to be promptly abandoned. After rowing about for 
all one night in their small boat, the crew landed on a 
sandy beach and stayed that night at a shepherd's hut ; 
they then wandered farther on till they came to a 


monastery; thence, after passing through swamps in the 
darkness, on December 22nd they fell in with some 
Italian soldiers, who gave them biscuits and enabled them 
to reach an Italian camp. Thence they marched with 
a hundred Serbians to Valona, and eventually got afloat 

The value of the drifters in defending the Adriatic was 
proving inestimable, and by the beginning of January 
1916 another fifty had to come out from England. Mines 
for their nets were also beginning to arrive, so that if an 
enemy submarine should foul their nets it was hoped 
that the U-boat would be destroyed. 

Thus the dual work of these little ships went on. To 
them fell the lot of saving life and destroying submarines. 
On January 8th, 1916, the Italian transport Cittd di 
Palermo, carrying, among others, 150 British troops, 
struck a mine about ten miles from Brindisi. Notwith- 
standing the obvious risk, twenty-one drifters which hap- 
pened to be in the vicinity at once steamed into the danger 
zone to her assistance and were able to pick up about a 
hundred survivors. While so doing, two of the drifters, 
the Freuchny and Morning Star, themselves ran on to 
mines and blew up, but the rest of the flotilla, undaunted 
by these disasters, continued their search for survivors. 
At this period Durazzo was full of Serbian troops who, 
having retreated, were embarking to a place of safety, 
and the drifters were kept busy with their nets off this 
section of the coast. The route from Valona to Corfu 
had to be actively protected by them during the move- 
ment of troops to the latter place. In fact so much protec- 
tion had to be afforded that these British fishermen had 
scarcely any opportunity for rest, and even when they 
were able to get a nominal respite in port, they were 
liable to be sent out at four hours' notice in the event of 
sudden attack by the enemy. The Otranto drifters were, 
in short, performing the most active and important work 
in the Mediterranean area at this period. 

So far, however, they had not enjoyed the desire of every 
patrol .vessel, which was to destroy an enemy submarine, 
but this stroke of good fortune was to come. On January 
20th, 1916, when about seven miles west-south-west 
of Cape Laghi, an engagement occurred between the 
drifter Garrigill and a U-boat, in which the latter broke 


off the fight. Eight days later the Heatherhloom certainly 
had a submarine in her nets and dropped depth charges 
on her, but with no result. On February 8th the drifter 
Lily Reaich, too, had a similar experience ; before the end 
of the month this drifter had foundered on a mine off 
Durazzo. Several other drifters perished likewise on 
mines about this time. The danger suggested the defence, 
and by the middle of March vessels of this class, light 
though they were and slow, were therefore sent from 
Brindisi to sweep up mines. On I^Iay 13th, after months of 
weary waiting, of monotonous routine, of varied dangers and 
keen effort, there came at last to the drifters a well-deserved 
reward. It happened in this wise. At a quarter-past nine 
in the evening, when about twelve miles east-north-east 
of Cape Otranto, the drifter Calistoga (Skipper William 
Stephens, R.N.R.) had just finished towing her nets into 
position when an indicator buoy was fired and such a 
strain came on the nets that the Calistoga's head was 
towed round. 

It was fairly obvious that a submarine was foul of 
the nets, so the skipper took a bearing of the buoy and 
found it was altering rapidly. He then fired a warning 
rocket signal, slipped the nets, and gave chase to the 
buoy. About a thousand yards away was the drifter 
Dulcie Doris, which also slipped her nets and w^ent after 
the buoy. Presently a submarine came up about five 
hundred yards ahead. The Dulcie Doris opened fire on 
her at point-blank range, hitting her three times under 
the conning-tower. A third drifter, the Evening Star, 
which was seven hundred yards south-west of the Dulcie 
Doris, on seeing the indicator buoy flare, also slipped her 
nets, went in pursuit, and fired at the enemy, hitting her 
twice. The submarine listed over and began to sink, 
and the enemy crew was seen to take to the water. Boats 
were then launched from the drifters, and the commander 
and tw^o other officers were picked up, as well as seventeen 
men. They were taken as prisoners into Brindisi. Next 
day the second in command admitted that they had been 
caught half an hour in the net by the propellers, and could 
not get clear. By this date the depth of the nets had 
been increased to 120 feet, which it was thought would 
be the farthest depth to which submarines would dare to 
dive. Thus ended the life of the Austrian U-boat No. VI. 


For this fine service the sum of £1,000 was awarded for 
division between the three drifters mentioned. 

On July 9th, however, the enemy had his revenge, 
when at four in the morning a group of five drifters, 
based on Brindisi, were attacked by an Austrian cruiser, 
with the result that the two drifters Astrum Spei and 
Claim were lost. After this incident it became necessary 
to shift the drifter line farther south down the Straits, 
thus making it less easy for the raiders to interfere with 
them with little risk to themselves. Before the end of 
July the armed yacht Catania (Commander the Duke of 
Sutherland, R.N.R.) arrived at Taranto in advance of a 
number of motor-launches which were coming out from 
England to patrol the Otranto Straits. The drifters 
were badly in need of all the help which could be given. 
They had, however, further evidence about this time of 
the success which was attending their hazardous and 
monotonous work. About 6.30 a.m. on July 30th, U44 
got foul of the nets of the Quarry Knowe, which signalled 
the Garrigill. The latter dropped depth charges, and 
eventually the nets, which had evidently enveloped the 
submarine, went to the bottom. The career of this vessel 
was ended. About a month later the enemy retaliated 
by sending three aeroplanes over the drifter line and 
sank the Rosies with the second bomb. During the 
autumn the drifter base was transferred from Brindisi 
to Taranto, as these craft were operating now farther 
to the southward across the Otranto Straits. The mine- 
layers, too, were based nearer their patrol area, being 
given the use of Tricase Harbour, which was specially 
deepened for them. 

In spite of every effort, there was no doubt that sub- 
marines on their way to and from Cattaro were succeeding 
in avoiding the nets, chiefly by crossing the line at night 
on the surface. Bad weather, especially on a dark night, 
when the drifter line would become more or less scattered, 
was welcomed by the enemy submarines working in the 
Mediterranean. When once they had negotiated this 
nominal barrage of the Otranto Straits, they had a clear 
run, and only the right weather and the right time were 
needed to enable an enterprising submarine commander 
to get through. Indeed, it is remarkable in the circum- 
stances that any U-boats were sunk. In face of many 


difficulties, the little steam vessels — most of them built 
of wood — of the Auxiliary Patrol did maintain a barrier 
that was at least tiresome, often dangerous, and at times 
fatal, to the enemy's under-water craft. Exposed to 
attack from cruisers, aeroplanes, and submarines, and 
with the lightest of weapons with which to reply, these 
fishermen and junior officers of the Royal Naval Reserve 
deserved well of the Allies. The French and Italians, 
less familiar than the British seamen with the conditions 
of such warfare as the enemy was waging, were not 
protecting the drifters quite as well as might have been 
expected, although various conferences between admirals 
of the various nationalities took place now and again. 
The strain on the fishermen, the wear and tear of drifters 
toAving their 180-foot-deep nets, and the large number of 
reliefs, together with costly shore establishments, indicated 
how enthusiastically Great Britain had come to the sup- 
port of the common cause in foreign waters. 

The conferences were not fruitless, and by the middle of 
December six Italian destroyers were patrolling in the 
Straits. On December 17th the Adriatic drifters definitely 
sank yet another submarine ; this time it was the Austrian 
U-boat No. XX which was destroyed. The enemy craft 
fouled the 180-foot-deep nets of the drifter Fisher Girl, 
and after a number of depth charges had been dropped 
by the drifters, she sank to the bottom of the Adriatic, 
never again to be seen on the surface. Five days later 
the enemy replied by attempting to raid the drifter line 
by means of a force consisting of a light cruiser and three 
or four destroyers. This incident occurred at 9.30 p.m. 
Two drifters, the Gowan Lea and Our Allies, were shelled, 
the former being hit several times and severely injured, 
though there were no casualties. Fortunately the enemy 
force was seen by six French destroyers, which were not 
on patrol, but happened to be passing the drifter line 
en route from Brindisi for Taranto. The enemy was 
immediately chased by the French vessels to the north- 
ward until 2 a.m. From Brindisi some Italian destroyers 
and H.M.S. Gloucester also put to sea at 11.30 p.m., 
but the enemy was able to escape. Although the Austrians 
had failed in their plan, it was only by a lucky chance 
that several of these British fishing-craft were saved from 
destruction. The defence of the drifters indeed consti- 


tuted a difficult problem. The drifters were required 
because the submarines had to be hindered, and the actual 
losses of the latter through the tactics of the drifters 
showed what good work was being done. At the same time 
they furnished an easy target on any night that the 
Austrians might select. It was therefore decided to vary 
the position of the net line from time to time and to place 
it still farther to the southward ; the previous line had 
extended from a position fifteen miles east of Cape Otranto 
to Strade Blanche, the nets being used whenever the 
weather permitted. 

We must now leave the Adriatic and the Dardanelles 
and see what was happening in the rest of the Mediter- 
ranean. The position in the late summer of 1915 may 
be briefly summarised. The Germans were still nervous 
of the possible result of the Dardanelles campaign. If 
the British forces after all succeeded in breaking through, 
Germany would have virtually lost the war. The Germans 
accordingly began to send submarines to hinder the 
operations. The pioneer voyage of Hersing in U21 was 
followed by Riicker and Kophamel in U34 and U35. 
They set out from Germany on August 4th, and reached 
Cattaro three weeks later. They were followed by U39 
and U33, which left Germany on August 27th and 28th, 
and reached Cattaro on September 15th and 16th, Orders 
were also given for other oversea submarines to follow. 
For a time, then, the scene of greatest submarine activity, 
irrespective of mine-layers, shifted from the British Isles 
to the Mediterranean. Through that sea passed not 
merely transports, but passenger liners and cargo carriers 
from the Suez Canal. It was the policy of the enemy to 
wage a keen submarine warfare against Allied mercantile 
traffic in this southern sea. The torpedoing of the 
transport Royal Edward in the -^gean by UB14 on 
August 13th, whilst this submarine was on passage from 
Cattaro to Constantinople, showed what could be expected. 
It was to be anticipated, also, that as the submarine 
mine-layer off the south-eastern English coast had begun 
to be very active, before long there would be submarine 
mine-layers in the Mediterranean. If mines were dropped 
off Malta — an obvious position — there would be serious 
danger to His Majesty's ships and transports, so it was 


decided in August to send six trawlers from the Nore 
area to Malta for mine-sweeping and patrol, the first four 
setting out on August 14th. 

During the autumn a number of trawlers were pur- 
chased from Portugal and, after being commissioned, 
were based on Gibraltar. During November a dozen 
German trawlers, which had been captured by Captain 
Tyrwhitt's Harwich force in the Heligoland Bight, ^vere 
sent to Lowestoft, fitted out for the Mediterranean, and 
armed with 12-pounder guns. Other trawlers were simi- 
larly prepared and sent to Falmouth, where they steamed 
to the Mediterranean. Some of the craft were dispatched 
to Port Said, some to Malta, the others to Alexandria, 
In addition, the squadron of fast armed yachts, which 
had been patrolling in the Irish Sea, left early in November 
for the Mediterranean, where, at first, they were lent to 
the French. Vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol were at this 
period being put to all sorts of uses. At the end of 
November, for instance, troops were being sent from 
Egypt to Marsa Matruh in trawlers owing to the Senussi 
rising. The demand for armed trawlers was so insistent 
that by December another sixty-six had to be withdrawn 
from their patrol work off the British coast and sent to the 
Mediterranean, thirty-six being sent to Alexandria and 
thirty to Malta. The ex-German trawlers gave a good 
deal of trouble, owing to their defects, but at Lowestoft 
and Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta, they were eventually 
made serviceable. 

To organise these numerous patrol-vessels, Rear- Admiral 
le Marchant, who had had experience with them at 
Kingstown, was appointed to Malta. A few more yachts, 
such as the ^gusa and Safa-el-Bahr, were also dis- 
patched to the Mediterranean before the end of 1915. 
It was decided on December 23rd that the Gibraltar, 
Malta, and Egypt anti-submarine patrols should be 
arranged as follows : Gibraltar was to have the yacht 
squadron, as well as eight other yachts and six sloops ; 
Malta was to have four destroyers, twelve sloops, two 
yachts, and forty-eight trawlers ; Egypt was to have a 
dozen sloops, besides her group of trawlers. These elabo- 
rate arrangements were necessary for the reason that the 
submarine sinkings in the Mediterranean were becoming 
serious. It was unfortunate that when already there were 


too few Auxiliary Patrol craft in the British Isles the 
number had to be depleted. They brought with them 
south that same eager, fighting spirit that they had 
exhibited in British waters ; they had to endure months of 
monotonous boredom, broken only occasionally by a 
short sharp burst of excitement, such as occurred to the 
yacht JEgusa on April 13th, 1916. 

This yacht (Captain T. P. Walker, R.N.R.) received 
a wireless intercepted message that about 8 a.m. a sub- 
marine had been sighted in lat. 37° 18' N., long. 15° 57' E. 
The yEgusa at once proceeded towards this position 
and shortly after 1 p.m., before arriving there, received 
news that the enemy had apparently gone towards 
the Adriatic. Captain Walker assumed that her track 
would be to the north-east, and shaped his course accord- 
ingly, hoping to catch her before sunset. At 5.35 p.m. 
a steamer was observed about five miles off, and almost 
immediately afterwards a submarine was seen coming 
away from the steamer. The submarine fired a torpedo, 
which caused the ship to heel over and sink. In the 
meantime the Mgusa had opened a deliberate fire at 
8,000 yards. The enemy was making off at full speed on 
the surface in an easterly direction, and soon submerged, 
thus escaping. A fortnight later the Mgusa was lost off 
Malta, having been either torpedoed or mined. 

During the early months of 1916 the submarine menace 
in the Mediterranean developed apace. Some idea of the 
success that fell to the enemy may be obtained from the 
record of U35 during the month of June of that year. 
This craft had changed her commander, Kophamel having 
been succeeded by Arnauld de la Periere, a German naval 
officer whose father was French and had fought against 
Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. This submarine 
officer, owing to the thoroughness of his work in the 
Mediterranean, earned a high reputation among his fellow 
countrymen. He sank no fewer than forty-one ships 
between June 10th and 29th, twenty of them being 
steamers and twenty-one sailing-craft. 

In the middle of June, in order to keep abreast of the 
mine-sweeping necessities in the Mediterranean, six paddle- 
steamers (well-known liitherto to excursionists at British 
seaside resorts) were collected at Falmouth and thence 
sent south. Many of the Auxiliary Patrol vessels had been 


out in the Mediterranean since the early months of the war 
and were needing a rest. There is a sea-saying that " ships 
and men always rot in port." But it is not less true that, 
unless they are both relieved at the end of a definite 
time, they will go to pieces. The crews had not been able 
to visit their homes and relations for a long while, whereas 
their brethren serving in the waters of the British Isles 
had been able to get a few days' leave at least twice a 
year. On July 28th, 1916, the first group of a dozen 
trawlers was ordered home from the Mediterranean so that 
the crews might be rested and the ships refitted, and 
further groups were to be sent home in the same way as 
opportunity offered. To replace these, another dozen 
craft were sent out from Falmouth and Portland at the 
end of July. The first of the home-coming trawlers began 
to reach Falmouth at the beginning of October from 
Mudros, and proceeded to Lowestoft for refit and some 
of them were afterwards sent to the White Sea. Thus 
from the Dardanelles to the north of Russia the trawlers 
extended their daily duties. Similarly with the drifters 
which had been out for a long time, being based on Mudros. 
In November orders were issued to select good steel drifters 
from the English patrol bases and to send them to Fal- 
mouth, where they were fitted with guns, nets, depth 
charges, bombs, and one month's stores. They then 
proceeded to Mudros via Gibraltar. These steel craft 
were to relieve twenty-four wooden drifters which were 
directed to return to England. 

As further additions were made to the auxiliary defence 
force in the Mediterranean, so also did the enemy continue 
to maintain his activity. 

Thus the contest went on between the submarine and 
anti-submarine. The Malta Auxiliary Patrol craft were 
doing their best to make it safe for the transports outward 
and homeward bound, but it was a vast undertaking. 
From Malta to Cerigotto Channel is a distance of 420 miles, 
and this transport route was patrolled by the trawlers 
to the east, and from Malta to the westward as far as 
Pantellaria, a further 130 miles. Other trawlers as well 
as some paddlers, were engaged in mine-sweeping ; M.L.s 
and trawlers were patrolling off the Maltese coast ; whilst 
other trawlers still, with some armed yachts, were busy 
doing escort work. Such was the position at the beginning 


of 1917, a year that was to witness a record number of 
sinkings. For Malta it began badly enough, for on 
January 9th, 1917, H.M.S. Cornwallis, which had fired 
the first shell on the first day's bombardment of the outer 
forts of the Dardanelles and took part in that campaign 
for a longer period than any other battleship, was tor- 
pedoed and sunk by a submarine off Malta. There was 
no respite for anyone from the peril of the torpedo. 
Battleship or transport, armed yacht or trawler, it was 
all the same. Ships and men of all sorts were doing their 
best, but Germany had sent her very best U-boat officers 
to the Mediterranean, and these submarines, besides their 
ability to become invisible, were also better armed on the 
surface than were our small craft, suffering from the unsatis- 
fied demands of the new British armies for equipment. 
Arnauld de la Periere, the " star turn " of the enemy 
flotilla, was a believer in attacking his victims by long- 
distance gunnery ; and because of his gun's superiority 
of range he could do pretty much as he liked. It may 
now be confessed that the information which these submar- 
ines possessed of the tracks of the British merchant ships 
was remarkably accurate, since they had little difficulty 
in finding their prey. That having been done, the rest was 
easy, and many a mercantile officer was compelled to see 
his ship floundering in her death agony whilst on his way 
to Cattaro as a prisoner of war. 



During the early months of 1915 the German Admiralty 
Staff, impressed by the freedom of communications which 
the Allies were enjoying in the Mediterranean, and particu- 
larly by the possibilities which resided in the attack on the 
Dardanelles, had been studying the situation in southern 
waters. It was assumed that the Allies would be unpre- 
pared for an extension of the submarine campaign and 
that, at first, counter-measures, such as were being 
developed in home waters, would be lacking. Moreover, 
the geographical formation of, and high visibility in, the 
Mediterranean were regarded as favouring submarine 
operations. Arrangements were accordingly made, as 
has been indicated in the preceding chapter, to send 
six small " B " submarines and four boats of the " C " 
class by rail in sections to Pola and to put them 
together at the Austrian port. Towards the end of May 
the sinking of H.M.S. Triumph and H.M.S. Majestic 
encouraged the enemy to further efforts. Kapitan-Leut- 
nant Otto Hersing volunteered to take U21 round from the 
North Sea to the Mediterranean in order to prove the 
feasibility of submarines making so long a journey, 
unattended, under war conditions. The journey was 
successfully completed, and U21 was followed by other 

The news of the sinking of the transport Royal Edward 
on August 13th, with the loss of 132 lives, reached Germany 
at a moment when a fierce controversy between the naval 
and civil authorities was proceeding as to the wisdom 
of antagonising neutrals, and particularly the Americans, 
by attacks on merchant shipping round the British Isles. 
On September 18th, as already stated, the order limiting 
the operation of submarines in home waters was issued, 
and the scene of activity shifted to the Mediterranean. 



Events had convinced the Germans that the Mediter- 
ranean offered favourable conditions for attacking the 
communications of the Alhes. On September 4th the 
Natal Transport (4,107 tons) had been destroyed. This 
vessel was on passage from Bombay to Liverpool with a 
general cargo. She had left Port Said early in the after- 
noon of September 2nd and, in view of the rumours that 
submarines had appeared in the Mediterranean, a sharp 
lookout was kept. When the ship had been at sea two 
days and was off Gavdo Island, Crete, the chief officer 
(Mr. J. T. Jones) heard the sound of a gun, and looking 
astern, saw a shot drop into the sea about one mile away. 
A submarine was then observed three or four miles astern. 
The master (Mr. W. C. Davison) was in his cabin on the 
bridge, and at once took charge on hearing the firing, 
ordering a full head of steam. Two more shots followed, 
one astern and the other ahead of the vessel, and then 
the forecastle head was hit, the projectile penetrating the 
two decks and entering the fore peak. The unequal struggle 
had lasted about a quarter of an hour, and Captain 
Davison, responsible for the lives of the crew of thirty- 
three hands, felt that he had no alternative but to stop. 
The submarine continued firing while the crew were taking 
to the boats, but they got away safely. While the ship 
was being abandoned, another submarine rose to the 
surface two or three miles away and fired a rocket signal 
to her companion and firing ceased. As the boats pulled 
away to the north, the Natal TransjJort — which had been 
holed in many places — presented a sad spectacle ; she had 
a list to port and smoke was issuing from the ventilators 
of the holds. In the darkness the boats proceeded toward 
the coast of Crete, and, with assistance sent to them by 
the British Consul at Canea, the officers and men got 

The destruction of the Natal Transport was followed 
on September 7th by the sinking of the Caroni (2,652 tons), 
which was torpedoed fifteen miles west from Chassiron 
in the Bay of Biscay. She was shelled as the evening was 
closing in, and the crew were left to their fate fifteen 
miles from land. The Mora (3,047 tons) was destroyed 
by gunfire on the following day sixty-eight miles W. 
by S. from Belle Isle off the Brittany coast, and on 
the 9th the Cornubia (1,736 tons) met the same end 


seventy-five miles S.E. by S. from Cartagena. After 
sailing and pulling for twenty-eight hours in a rough sea, 
with a high wind, the crew landed at Puerto de Mazarron. 
These three ships fell the victims to submarines which 
were outward bound to the Mediterranean. Ten days 
later the transport Ramazan (3,477 tons), carrying Indian 
troops, was shelled and sunk off Cerigotto Island with a 
loss of 315 lives, including 314 Indians. The Linkmoor 
(4,306 tons) was destroyed off Cape Matapan less than 
twenty-four hours later. Then came the sinking of the 
H. C. Henry (4,219 tons) in almost the same position on 
the 28th, and the Haydn (3,923 tons) went down off Crete 
on the 29th. The last-named vessel was bound from 
Karachi to Glasgow. The crew, under orders from the 
enemy craft, left the ship in two boats as darkness fell. 
The submarine, having completed her work, disappeared 
without offering assistance. The master (Mr. J. W. 
Learmouth) decided to remain in the vicinity until the 
next day, when it was agreed that both boats should steer 
for the nearest British port on the homeward voyage, a 
distance of five hundred miles. During the following 
night the boats lost sight of each other. Captain Lear- 
mouth's boat was picked up on October 3rd and brought 
into Malta. The remainder of the crew had been in their 
open boat for forty-eight hours before they were rescued 
by the s.s. Trafalgar and landed at Port Said. 

These events occurred during the period when the enemy 
was reconsidering the submarine campaign in the light 
of American protests, and with the close of September he 
determined to concentrate his resources on an attack upon 
the lines of communication of the Allies in the Mediter- 
ranean. Henceforward British and other seamen were 
confronted with dangers in the Mediterranean resembling 
those with which events had made them familiar in home 
waters. The Germans had learnt that submarines could 
make the long passage from the North Sea to these 
southern waters, and every available craft of suitable 
design was dispatched to spread destruction in the 

With the opening of the month of October the sub- 
marine campaign in southern waters began in deadly 
earnest, with dire results to British shipping and British 
merchant seamen. In all ten ships were accounted for by 


the enemy and thirty-five Hves were lost during that month. 
On the 2nd the Sailor Prince (3,144 tons) was intercepted 
off Cape Sidero, Crete. Though the ship was forty-eight 
miles from land, the crew were ordered to take to the boats, 
but fortunately eight hours later they were rescued by the 
s.s. Borulos. As soon as he got on board the master of 
the Sailor Prince (Mr. J. Chilvers) told the story of his 
experiences, confident that he had nothing more to fear. 
That the submarine was still watching the course of events 
became apparent, however, about two hours later, when 
she made an attack on the Borulos. The steamer had on 
board about three hundred passengers, including a good 
many women and children, and when the submarine re- 
vealed its intention a panic broke out, some persons 
jumping overboard. Captain Chilvers immediately went 
to the bridge and hoisted a signal stating that the vessel 
carried passengers, including women and children. The 
Greek flag was afterwards hoisted, and then the sub- 
marine closed in. In the meantime as many passengers 
as possible had been rescued from the water and placed 
on board the enemy craft, but it was afterwards found that 
twenty-five had been drowned in spite of the efforts of 
two British firemen, named Barker and Crocker, who lost 
their lives in endeavouring to save women and children 
from drowning. Before the submarine could carry out 
its apparent purpose of sinking the Borulos, the second 
officer of that ship bore the visiting-card of Prince Mahmoud 
to the commander, at the same time telling him that the 
Prince and his family were on board. He also informed 
him that there were Greek passengers in the Borulos 
and appealed to him to spare the ship. Greece, though 
a small country, was neutral ; the Borulos was spared 
and reached Alexandria without further incident. 

The Arabian (2,744 tons) was sunk on the same day as 
the Sailor Prince, and the Craigston (2,617 tons) two 
days later, and then on the 5th the Bursfield (4,037 tons) 
was overhauled by a submarine seventy miles west of 
Cape Matapan. The master (Mr. A. L. Hunt), the fourth 
engineer, a messroom steward, and a fireman were killed 
by gunfire during the chase which took place before the 
vessel was overtaken by the enemy. 

The ordeal to which merchant seamen had been con- 
demned by the enemy is reflected in the following sum- 


maries of the records of steamships sunk between October 
6th and October 23rd, when the Marquette (7,057 tons) 
went down with a loss of twenty-nine hves. 

The Silvcrash (3,753 tons) was overhauled by a sub- 
marine on the 6th when about 190 miles east from Malta. 
The master (Mr. John Parry Jones) decided that escape 
was impossible. The crew took to the boats, which were 
afterwards picked up by the steamer Remembrance. 

The Scaivby (3,658 tons) was stopped by a submarine 
at 2.30 p.m. on the same day when 220 miles from the 
nearest land — I\Ialta. The crew were ordered to abandon 
ship, and the submarine, having exploded a bomb by the 
vessel's side, went off after another steamer. As there 
appeared some hope that the Scawhy might not sink, 
the master (Mr. M. M. A. Fisker) ordered the boats to stand 
by. The submarine, observing the intention to reboard 
the vessel, returned and began firing with rifles at the 
boats as they were approaching the ship. Nothing fur- 
ther could be done, so the boats set sail in the direction 
of land. They were picked up the following morning — 
one at 6 o'clock and the other at 9 o'clock. 

The Halizones (5,093 tons) was intercepted by a sub- 
marine off Cape Martello, Crete, on the 7th. The master 
(Mr. W. J. Eynon) put on full speed, but, after seven 
shots had been fired by the enemy, gave up the hopeless 
effort to escape, and the crew were ordered to abandon 
ship when 120 miles from the nearest practical landing- 
place. After being in their boats for seventy-two hours, 
they reached land on Sunday afternoon, October 10th. 

The Thorpwood (3,184 tons) was also off Cape Martello 
when, on the morning of October 8th, she was chased by 
a submarine, which flew the French colours until the 
first shot had been fired, when the German ensign was 
hoisted. The pursuit was a short one. The master 
(Mr. Henry V. Adams), after consulting with his officers, 
decided that escape was impossible. Though there was 
no landing-place nearer than 125 miles, the crew were 
ordered to abandon ship. 

The Apollo (3,774 tons) was off Gavdo Island, Crete, 
on October 9th, when she was overhauled by a sub- 
marine. The master (Mr. M. J. Redmond) had no recourse 
but to stop the ship. The nearest land was sixty-five 
miles distant. The crew was nevertheless ordered to 


take to their small boats, and the only consideration 
extended to them was permission to take with them a 
chart and provisions. One boat was forty-nine hours 
before reaching land, and the other was fifty-two hours. 

During November the enemy's anticipation of reaping 
a rich harvest in the Mediterranean was partially con- 
firmed. In addition to nine ships, of 9,677 tons, which 
were sunk by mines in various areas, with a loss of no 
fewer than ninety-three lives, the submarines operating 
in the Mediterranean accounted for twenty-three vessels, 
of 84,816 tons, with casualties numbering twenty- five. 
Consequently during those weeks the British Mercantile 
Marine was deprived of thirty-two vessels (94,493 tons). 
In addition, submarines molested eleven ships, of 64,460 
tons. The experience of the Woodfield (3,584 tons) 
furnished evidence of the effective use which could have 
been made of long-range defensive armament if it had 
been available at this period. This vessel carried only a 
small gun, and the attacking submarine kept at a safe 
distance. The Woodfield (master, Mr. Robert Hughes) was 
on her way from Avonmouth to Malta when, in the early 
morning of the 3rd, the stillness was broken by the sound of 
gun-fire, two shots passing across the vessel's bow. Far 
away in the distance, Captain Hughes then saw a submarine 
steaming towards him. The vessel was at once put stern 
on to the enemv. 

As soon as the merchant captain's intention to evade 
capture became apparent to the commander of the 
submarine, he opened fire again and for two hours the 
fusillade continued, the British merchant captain, un- 
daunted by the odds against him, still holding on his 
course. The ship was hit several times ; seven men 
were killed and the carpenter was fatally wounded. When 
Captain Hughes, who, with thirteen others, had been 
wounded, realised that his vessel was in a sinking condition, 
he ordered the port and starboard lifeboats to get aAvay. 
He had in his charge, in addition to his crew of thirty-four 
hands, thirty-one passengers, and seven of these were 
among the injured. All who remained alive got away 
safely in the two boats. When everyone had left the ship 
except the captain, the gunner, and a soldier, the sub- 
marine ceased firing, submerged, and came up on the 
starboard beam, A torpedo Mas then fired, which struck 


the vessel amidship. Not, however, until two more shots 
had been fired did the Woodjield sink. The master and 
his two companions were the last to leave the ship ; 
they took refuge on a raft, which was picked up by the 
second mate's boat, which safely reached the coast of 
Morocco. Captain Hughes had not succeeded in saving 
his ship, but he had at least sold it at a high price in view 
of the large number of shells, besides a torpedo, which 
the enemy had had to expend. The incident took place 
out of sight of land, about forty miles east of Ceuta. 
On the same day the Woolwich (2,936 tons) was captured 
and destroyed 100 miles south from Cape Sidero, Crete, 
and but for the manner in which the transports Jajjanese 
Prince (4,876 tons) and the 3Iercian (6,305 tons) were 
handled on the same day, these two vessels would have 
shared the same fate, with probably heavy loss of life. 

The escape of the Japanese Prince illustrated what 
could be done by good seamanship, for the vessel was 
unarmed and had no wireless. For over four hours the 
submarine chased this transport. She fired about forty- 
five shells, but fortunately none of them caused casual- 
ties, although many pieces of shell were picked up on the 
decks. This immunity was due to the skill with which 
the master (Mr. A. H. Jenkins) manoeuvred his ship, 
earning recognition at the hands of the Admiralty. He 
was awarded a lieutenant's commission in the R.N.R., 
and he, as well as the chief engineer (Mr. C. James), was 
mentioned in despatches. Speed and skilful manoeuvring 
also saved the Mercian (Captain Walker). This ship, 
like the Japanese Prince, was steaming in the Mediter- 
ranean, proceeding with 500 troops from Gibraltar to 
Malta. At 2.15 p.m. an enemy submarine was sighted 
about two miles on the starboard quarter. The sub- 
marine immediately opened fire with two guns, one being 
a 3-4-inch, the first shot striking the foremast, the second 
the mainmast, and the third wrecked the wireless tele- 
graph house. The master then zigzagged his ship to try 
and dodge the shells. About this time the master sent 
the quartermaster from the wheel to find out the damage 
done to the wireless telegraph house ; this man did not 
return, and in consequence the master had to take the 
wheel for over an hour of the action until relieved by 
Private Thompson. The master ordered the two Maxims 


to open fire as soon as the submarine came within range, 
but these naturally were of small use against a 3-4-inch 
gun. The submarine fired about 100 shells, of which 
twenty to thirty struck the ship, causing twenty-three 
deaths and fifty-five wounded. At 3 p.m. a patrol-vessel 
hove in sight, and soon afterwards the submarine ceased 
firing and disappeared. The master, who was awarded the 
D.S.C., was ably seconded by the chief engineer and his staff. 
Five ships, including the transport Moorina (4,994 
tons), were attacked by submarines on the 5th. The 
escape of the Cittj of York (7,834 tons) and the Huntsman 
(7,460 tons) was due to the effective use which was made 
of the two guns with which these vessels had been armed ; 
while the Lady Plymouth (3,521 tons) got away owing to her 
speed. She was fired on again on the following day as 
she was proceeding along the coast of Algiers, but once 
more showed her heels to the enemy. The Pola (3,061 
tons) also escaped by good fortune and good seamanship 
off Tukush Island, Algeria, on the 6th, when four other 
vessels, including the Lumina (5,950 tons), which was 
defensively armed, were destroyed. 

On the following day an enemy submarine in the course 
of six hours sank off Cape Martello, Crete, two good 
British vessels of an aggregate of nearly 8,000 tons. The 
weather was fine, the sea was fairly smooth, and there 
was little wind. By chance the two ships steamed within 
the area under the observation of the submarine under 
these favourable conditions for attack. The Clan 
Macalister (4,835 tons), on passage from Liverpool to 
Indian ports with a general cargo of about 6,600 tons, 
was proceeding at full speed, at about 10 knots, and was 
some 120 miles south-east from Cape Martello when her 
master (Lieutenant-Commander J. W. Taylor, R.N.R., 
retired) noticed a vessel sinking about eight miles away. 
While heading in the steamer's direction in accordance 
with the immemorial rule observed by seamen of what 
Nelson described as " the polite nations," he saw the 
vessel disappear. Two minutes later his eye was arrested 
by what he took to be the bow wave of a submarine, 
some seven miles away on a south-south-easterly bearing. 
Putting on full speed, Captain Taylor went off to the 
north-north-west, placing the enemy astern of him. 

In the stokehold and engine-room all the hands were] "CLAN MACALISTER" AND "CARIA" SUNK 185 

working hard to keep a full head of steam, but, in 
spite of their efforts, the submarine gradually gained 
on the Clan Macalister. When about two and a half 
miles distant the enemy began firing, using shell first 
of all and afterwards shell and shrapnel promiscuously. 
The vessel was hit several times, but as the damage 
inflicted was not serious, Captain Taylor ignored the 
enemy's signal to stop and continued on his course. 
For over an hour and a half the chase was maintained, 
and then the chief engineer reported that the lascars 
in the stokehold, frightened by the firing, to which the 
Clan Macalister could make no reply, had left their 
stations and that steam was rapidly falling. The vessel 
was by this time being shelled at close range, and 
Captain Taylor was forced to the conclusion that no- 
thing more could be done to save his ship. The engines 
were stopped and all hands were ordered to the boats, 
the enemy continuing his bombardment while this was 
being done. A torpedo finally settled the fate of this 
unit of the Clan Line. 

While this ship was being disposed of, the Caria (3,032 
tons) came on the scene. She was proceeding in ballast 
from Naples to Alexandria, when the second officer, 
who was on the bridge, heard a shot and at once called 
the master (Mr. J. A. Wolfe). A submarine was then 
observed about two points on the starboard bow, two miles 
away, astern of the Clan Macalister, which was heading 
on an opposite course to the Caria. Captain Wolfe 
became the passive m itness of the final phase of Captain 
Taylor's plucky attempt to escape. While chasing the 
Clan liner, the enemy devoted attention also to the other 
merchant ship. Having dispatched the Clan Macalister, 
the submarine returned to the Caria, which, owing to her 
light condition, was able to steam at considerably less 
than full speed, the propeller being half out of the water. 
Captain Wolfe had no hope of escape, so the ship was 
abandoned and forthwith sunk by gunfire. By a happy 
chance the boats of the two ships fell in with the steamer 
Frankenfels on the following morning, and thus the crews 
reached Malta in safety. 

This double success encouraged the enemy to hang 
about off Cape Martello, and two days later the Den of 
Crombie (4,949 tons), homeward bound from Far Eastern 


ports with a general cargo of 7,100 tons, came in sight. 
Shots began to fall near her, and then the submarine 
was observed on the port beam. The Den of Crombie 
was unarmed, and the master (Mr. H. C. Hemming) 
decided he had no alternative but to stop. The ship 
was immediately abandoned, and after the enemy had 
fired about a dozen shots the Den of Crombie disappeared 
and the submarine made off. The four boats kept com- 
pany during the day. After darkness had closed in, a 
steamer's lights were seen approaching. Captain Hemming 
ordered flares to be burnt, but the strange vessel, evidently 
suspicious that an attempt was being made to lure her to 
destruction, shut down all lights and altered course when 
M'ithin about a mile of the chief officer's boat and dis- 
appeared to the eastward, to the dismay of the distressed 
seamen. During the ensuing night the boats lost touch 
with each other and became separated. Fortunately, on 
the following morning the troop transport Royal George 
hove in sight of the chief officer's boat, and an hour 
later came across Captain Hemming and his companions. 
The boats of the second and third officers were also picked 
up, with the result that all the crew of the Den of Crombie 
got ashore. 

On the same day the master (Mr. Howard Tindle) of 
the Sir Richard Awdry (2,234 tons) had the mortification 
of being compelled to surrender his vessel off Gavdo 
Island, Crete. He was on passage from Saigon to Mar- 
seilles with a cargo of rice, and all had gone well for over 
a month, when he fell in with the submarine which was 
to bring about the destruction of the ship under his com- 
mand. Captain Tindle, on observing the enemy, altered 
course in the hope of getting away. The submarine then 
began firing somewhat wildly. A signal for help was 
promptly sent out, and as events were to prove would 
have resulted in saving the ship but for circumstances 
beyond Captain Tindle's control. At last the submarine 
obtained the range, with the result that the wireless 
aerials were destroyed ; other shots passed through the 
funnel and ventilators and shrapnel burst around the 
bridge. Captain Tindle was still maintaining a full head 
of steam, when the Chinamen down below became panic- 
stricken and deserted the stokehold. Speed at once began 
to fall off, so the ship was stopped. In spite of this action 


the submarine continued firing and, drawing in, dis- 
charged six shots at point-blank range into the engine- 
room. The chief and fourth mates were sHghtly wounded. 
The Chinese seamen by this time had got beyond control, 
and all of them, with the exception of four, took to the 
boats without waiting for orders. Captain Tindle had 
to admit that the position was hopeless, so he and his 
officers and the four remaining Chinamen passed over the 
side into a small boat as the ship was settling down by 
the stern. Though the Sir Richard Awdry was not a large 
vessel, she was sinking slowly, so the Germans discharged 
a torpedo, which caused her to heel over and disappear 
in seven minutes. The French trawler Marie Frederic, 
in response to the signal for help, appeared on the scene 
at this moment and drove away the enemy ; but, owing 
to the conduct of the Chinese stokers, she arrived too late 
to save the ship from destruction. Though they little 
deserved their good fortune, all these men, except a 
Chinese cook, were saved. On the following day the 
Californian (6,223 tons) was torpedoed ofl' Cape Matapan. 
She was steaming at 12 knots at the time, and, unlike 
the other vessels mentioned, was under escort, being 
accompanied by a French torpedo-boat. When the 
Californian was struck at 7.45 a.m. a French patrol-boat 
took her in tow, and there seemed some chance that she 
might get into port, but unhappily shortly after 1 o'clock 
the rope broke. Efforts were being made to resume 
towing, when a second torpedo hit the ship and she at 
once began to make water fast. The master (Mr. W. 
Masters), with his crew, remained by the ship for seven 
hours from the time that the first attack was made, but 
their devotion and all the efforts of the French seamen 
were unavailing. Fortunately, in spite of the extensive 
damage done by the torpedo, only one life was lost. 

Four days passed, during which British merchant 
shipping in the Mediterranean was unmolested, and then, 
on November 14th, the losses began once more. The 
Treneglos (3,886 tons) was proceeding at full speed seventy 
miles west-south-west from Gavdo Island, off Crete, when 
a terrific explosion occurred in the engine-room, killing 
outright the third engineer and two firemen, and smashing 
the port lifeboat. It was at once apparent that the ship was 
doomed. The master (Mr. S. P. Beale) ordered the boats 


to get away as quickly as possible, and hardly were they 
clear of the ship when she sank. From first to last 
nothing was seen of the submarine. On the following 
day, within a few miles of the spot where the Treneglos had 
disappeared, the Orange Prince (3,583 tons) was also 
torpedoed without warning, and in this case also three 
lives were lost. The vessel was going at full speed when 
the torpedo burst into the stokehold, killing three men. 
Everyone, except the master (Mr. J. Holloway) and the 
chief officer, took to the boats, and a few minutes later 
a second torpedo struck the ship. Captain Hollow^ay 
and the chief officer had barely time to escape before 
their vessel disappeared below the water. 

Little more than half the month had passed, and already 
the enemy had destroyed thirteen British merchant ships, 
and there was no respite for British seamen. On Novem- 
ber 18th the Enosis (3,409 tons) came under a heavy 
shell-fire when 150 miles east-south-east from Malta. A 
submarine was observed on the starboard beam flying no 
flag and bearing no number or other distinguishing mark. 
The range was soon obtained ; one shot fell on the fore- 
castle just as the men had left it, and another struck the 
bridge, mortally wounding the master (Mr. Alfred Bowling). 
The chief officer (Mr. J. Condon) was attending to lowering 
the boats, but he at once went to the assistance of Captain 
Bowling ; the master had been terribly injured and, 
although still living, was past human aid. As the boats 
were being put into the water, another shell exploded 
near the chart-room, doing further damage and putting 
the master out of his suffering. As soon as the boats 
were clear of the Enosis, she was torpedoed out of hand 
and sank, the body of Captain Bowling going down with 
her. Though the ship was destroyed far from land, 
the crew fortunately got ashore in safety. On the 19th 
the Hallamshire (4,420 tons) was torpedoed without 
warning when off Cerigotto at 2.20 p.m. The submarine 
apparently stood by to await events, and as the vessel 
was not sinking fast enough, she was attacked by shell- 
fire shortly after 4 o'clock. The submarine failed to 
show any flag in accordance with the rules of warfare. 
By 5 o'clock nothing was to be seen of the Hallamshire, 
with her cargo of 5,600 tons of coal. A French destroyer 
picked up the master (Mr. A. G. Clark) and his men. 


The Merganser (1,905 tons) met a like end off Gozo on 
November 20th. The ship was steaming at just under 
10 knots, but the master (Mr. J. T. Sharp), in his effort 
to escape, managed to get 13 knots out of her. Even 
this speed, however, was not sufficient to take the Mer- 
ganser out of gun range. Once more a French torpedo- 
boat was the means of saving the hves of the crew. After 
an interval of six days the Tringa (2,154 tons) was cap- 
tured thirty miles from Galata Island and sunk by gun- 
fire, with a loss of three lives ; on the following day the 
Tanis (3,665 tons) and the Kingsway (3,647 tons) were 
sunk by gunfire, the former three miles north from 
Zembra Island, and the latter off Cape Bon, Tunis. 

The latter ship was in ballast, and was making little head- 
way owing to the gale which was blowing, accompanied 
by high head seas. She was on her way from Malta to 
Huelva, Spain, when gunfire was heard. The narrative 
of events afterwards given by the master (Mr. Walter 
Langford) conveys an impression of the character of the 
ordeal to which British seamen were condemned : 

" I was in the saloon at the time and went on deck 
immediately. The third officer met me on the bridge 
ladder and reported that a shot had been fired which had 
struck the water about 15 feet ahead of the ship. I ran 
to the bridge and ordered him to stop the engines. At 
this time another shot was fired, which passed a few feet 
over the ship's No. 4 derrick. I could see no sign of any 
submarine owing to the heavy sea. Realising that it was 
impossible to escape when the second shot was fired, I 
blew three short blasts on the whistle to indicate that my 
engines were going astern, and I immediately ordered all 
the boats to be lowered and the crews to get into them 
as quickly as possible. The firing ceased for about five 

" I ordered the chief officer to take ten men into the 
port lifeboat and to get clear. The second officer 
was directed to take charge of the starboard lifeboat 
and took twelve men with him. The remaining four 
were told to get into the starboard jolly-boat, and 
I got into this myself, intending to change afterwards 
into one of the lifeboats. By this time the submarine, 
which was now seen for the first time, had come close 


in on the port side, and before all the crew had time to 
get into the boats she fired three shots in quick succession 
at Nos. 2, 8, and 4 holds. These went right through the 
ship — in one side and out the other. After considerable 
difficulty, all the crew got away in one lifeboat and two 
jolly-boats, the other lifeboat having been smashed by 
the action of the submarine. The submarine rounded 
the vessel twice, firing at her continually, and she sank 
at 0.30 p.m. on the same day. The submarine immedi- 
ately disappeared. She was about 250 feet long, was 
painted a light bluish-grey and was apparently quite new. 
The gun appeared to be a 6-inch howitzer, mounted on a 
pedestal about 12 feet abaft the conning-tower, and seemed 
to be fired from the conning-tower, having recoil cylinders 
on either side. No letters or numbers were seen, but one 
man in her held a small Austrian hand-flag." 

Captain Langford and his men got ashore safely. The 
loss of this ship was afterwards the subject of a Court of 
Inquiry, which decided that " after the first shot to call 
attention to the presence of the enemy submarine, this 
was so close that the Kingsway, more especially having 
regard to the conditions of weather prevailing at the time 
and the lightness of the ship, could not possibly have 

A welcome relief to the rising record of shipping losses 
was provided by the spirited and successful fight, on 
November 23rd, which was made by the City of Mar- 
seilles (8,250 tons), when on her way from Liverpool to 
Bombay via Marseilles. She had been given a 4-7-inch 
gun, and with this one weapon she drove off the enemy. 
Three weeks earlier the Kashgar (8,840 tons) had per- 
formed a similar feat, and as already noted, the Antilo- 
chus (9,039 tons) had also used her gun with good effect. 
The experience of the City of Marseilles supplied con- 
firmatory evidence of the value of such defensive arma- 
ment as the Admiralty was able to provide at a time 
when, owing to the growth of the Army and expansion of 
the Navy, there was a serious shortage of guns. 

The Ellerman liner (master, Mr. B. Dowse) was steaming 
at 12 knots at 10 a.m. when a submarine was sighted four 
miles on the port beam ; the enemy was flying no colours 
and made no signals. Captain Dowse, realising the 


peril in which he stood, put on speed and the ship 
was soon steaming at 16| knots. There seemed good 
hope of bringing the submarine on the port quarter. 
The passengers on board, as well as the officers and men, 
were not unconscious of the emergency which had arisen, 
but exhibited praiseworthy pluck. There was no other 
vessel in sight, and unless the submarine was driven olT 
reliance would have to be placed on the ship's boats for 
safety. A S.O.S. call was sent out by emergency code, 
fixing the position of the City of Marseilles, in the faint 
hope of help being forthcoming. The only reply received 
was, however, from an Italian hospital ship, stating 
that she had no code, but offering to stand by. As it was 
considered inadvisable to send messages en clair, this 
chivalrous response was not acknowledged. If the City 
of Marseilles was to be saved, it had to be by her own 

The duel between the merchant ship with her one gun 
and the submarine with its concentrated offensive power 
opened at a range of about three miles. The enemy 
fired about seven rounds at the British vessel without 
doing serious damage, although splinters of shell fell on 
board. The British gun's crew made a spirited reply. 
Their seventh shot ricochetted and appeared to hit the 
submarine. The enemy craft at any rate took a list to 
port and, turning round sharply, abandoned the chase. 
When last seen the submarine was steering in a north- 
easterly direction and had a list of about 25 degrees to port, 
which brought a large area of her starboard side out of 
water. The City of Marseilles proceeded on her passage, 
the passengers overjoyed at the success with which the 
ship had been handled and the spirit shown by the men 
manning her one gun. 

On the last two days of the month four more ships, 
all of them unarmed, were destroyed ; three of them — 
the Malinche (1,868 tons), the Colenso (3,861 tons), and the 
Langton Hall (4,437 tons) — were sunk off Malta, while the 
Middleion (2,560 tons) was destroyed by gunfire seventy 
miles from Gavdo Island, which had become a favourite 
cruising-ground with the enemy. The last ship was on her 
way from Mudros to Alexandria, when a suspicious object 
was seen about three miles astern. At first the master (Mr. 
H. Rattray) was not sure what it was. Then a shell 



passed over the ship and doubt was resolved into certainty. 
The Middleton at her best could steam only about 7 knots, 
but nevertheless Captain Rattray held on his course, 
zigzagging in order to confuse the enemy's fire. About 
twenty minutes after fire had been opened, seven of the 
crew were struck by shrapnel, one of them being killed out- 
right. Escape was impossible, so Captain Rattray stopped 
the ship. As soon as the crew had taken to the boats, 
the enemy sank the Middleton by gunfire and then 
disappeared. An appeal by the second mate for bandages 
for the injured men was ignored. Captain Rattray 
found himself in a situation which called for all his 
resource. During the day two of his men died of their 
wounds. It was not until night was falling that the 
Clan Maclaren hove in sight and rescued the survivors. 
The casualty list was not, however, yet complete, for 
another man died on board the Clan liner before she 
reached Malta. 

The year 1915 closed with a series of tragedies which 
cost the British Merchant Navy twenty-one ships, but still 
more grievous was the loss of 419 lives, of which all but 
three, caused by mine explosions, were traceable to the 
operations of enemy submarines in the Mediterranean. 
Apart from this terrible story of the destruction of the 
P. & O. liner Persia, which is dealt with in a subsequent 
chapter, incidents occurred which stand out conspicu- 
ously in the record of the enemy's attempt, at any cost 
of life and property, to interrupt the communications of 
the Allies in the Mediterranean. On the first day of the 
month, the Clan Macleod (4,796 tons) was sunk by gunfire 
no less than 100 miles east -south-east from Malta. She 
was on her way home from Calcutta with a general cargo 
of about 6,000 tons. The master (Mr. H. S. Southward) 
was steering towards Malta when, in the clear morning 
light, the chief officer sighted smoke on the port quarter. 
He assumed that it was a destroyer and, as the enemy 
had no surface craft at sea, nothing was to be feared. 
About twenty minutes later a shot came out of nowhere, 
falling short of the Clan Macleod. Captain Southward 
at once altered course so as to put the smoke patch well 
astern of him, the engines were opened out, and all the 
firemen were sent below in order to get as much steam 
as possible. 


Though the British merchant ship was unarmed, 
Captain Southward was not without hopes of saving 
his ship. The submarine headed three or four times 
towards the vessel's port quarter, firing as she did so. 
The shots fell ahead, and Captain Southward, his deter- 
mination still firm, continued to manoeuvre his ship 
dexterously, the submarine maintaining a hot pursuit. 
It was soon apparent that the enemy had the advantage 
of speed. Shortly before 10 o'clock she had approached 
to within half a mile of the Clan Macleod. She then again 
opened fire, and the eighth shot struck the vessel. What 
happened afterwards can be best told in Captain South- 
ward's own words : 

" About this time I realised that I could not save the 
steamer, hoisted international signal of surrender, stopped 
the engines, and rounded to, bringing the submarine on the 
starboard side. The crew were sent to boat stations, 
but to my surprise the submarine started to shell the 
bridge, doing considerable damage. I was struck by the 
first shell. He then started to shell the boats and boat 
crews, killing nine men, wounding six (three fatally), and 
smashing the starboard boats. During this shelling the 
crew had all been sent to the port boats, which were 
manned and lowered without any casualty. After the 
boats were lowered the chief officer and myself had a 
look round the decks, but could not see anyone alive, 
so we then left the steamer. 

" After the boats left the steamer the gun of the sub- 
marine was pointed towards the lifeboat and the com- 
mander shouted for me. As the second officer told him 
I was in the other boat, he turned the gun away and told 
him he need not be afraid. The submarine was flying 
the German naval flag. When the other boat appeared 
in view of the submarine, I was ordered to go on board. 
I did so, and found the commander and lieutenant in a 
furious rage with me because I had not stopped sooner. 
The commander rushed down from the conning- tower, 
shook his fist in my face, and said, ' Why did you not 
stop ? ' I replied that I wanted to save my ship. He 
then said, ' Why did you not stop when I fired ? ' I 
replied that my instructions were to escape if possible. 
The commander said, ' Never mind your instructions ; 


you must obey my orders.' I replied that I did not know 
anything about his orders. His next remark was, ' I 
can shoot you as a franc-iireur.^ I said, ' I don't think 
so.' He said, ' You are assisting my enemy.' I replied, 
' I am your enemy.' 

" The commander then said, ' Had you stopped when 
I fired three shots you would not have had this,' pointing 
to a wound in my hand. I replied that it was my 

*' I was then ordered back into the boat, and the sub- 
marine at once proceeded to sink the steamer by shell- 
fire. After firing a couple of shots into every compart- 
ment, he returned to the boats and I was again ordered 
on board. I was asked for my instructions, which I said 
I had destroyed. I was also asked for the register, and 
told him it was on board the steamer. 

" The lieutenant dressed my hand, pointed out that 
my foot was wounded, and gave me packets of dressing 
for mv foot and for some of the wounded. Before I left 
the submarine he told me to inform all captains I met 
that they would be fired upon if they tried to escape. 
I told him that that would be their business and had 
nothing to do with me. He also asked me the position, 
and I said I had not had a position for some time. 

" We then parted company, and after I had picked 
up two wounded men, who had evidently stowed them- 
selves away, the two boats set sail for Malta, the chief 
officer having charge of the cutter with nineteen men on 
board, and myself in charge of the lifeboat, with fifty 
men on board. The submarine kept about half a mile 
south of the boats with only the periscope showing for 
three or four hours, when he disappeared. 

" The lifeboat's crew were picked up by the steamship 
Lord Cromer, of Liverpool, on the following day at 6 p.m., 
and landed at Algiers on December 5th. The cutter's 
crew were rescued at 2 a.m. on December 4th, and were 
landed at Malta the same day." 

One of the injured men died of his wounds. For 
several months Captain Southward was in hospital, 
recovering slowly from the injuries he had received during 
his courageous and skilful attempt to save his ship. 

Within twenty-four hours two other large ships had 


fallen victims to the same submarine — the Umeia (5,312 
tons) on the same day, and the Commodore (5,858 tons) 
(master, Mr. H. Russell) early on the following morning. 
The submarine continued to fire on the former vessel 
after the master (Mr. W. Moxon) had stopped his engines. 
Fortunately, none of the boats was injured and everyone 
on board got away in safety, except one lascar who re- 
fused to leave, and an engine fireman who died of thirst 
and exposure in one of the boats. The Umeta was sunk 
112 miles east -south-east of Malta, and when the enemy 
had disappeared, leaving the British seamen to their own 
resources. Captain Moxon gave the boats a course for that 
port. During the night they became separated. The 
master and his companions were drifting about at the 
mercy of the waves until the afternoon of the 5th, when 
they were fortunately rescued by the Greek steamer 
Massalia and landed at Algiers. The rest of the crew 
also found safety. The Com,modore was even farther 
from the nearest land — 160 miles — when she was over- 
hauled. For half an hour she was kept under a heavy 
fire, which was not abated even when the men on board 
were taking to the boats. One man had already been 
killed, and another severely wounded, and while the 
boats were being lowered five more hands were injured — 
two of them severely. The survivors were adrift for 
twenty-eight hours before they were picked up by a 
Belgian steamer. On the following day the Helmsmuir 
(4,111 tons) was torpedoed off Gavdo Island, and three 
other ships were chased. 

The attention of the naval authorities was attracted 
in particular to the conduct of the P. & O. Benalla (11,118 
tons). She was proceeding from Alexandria to Malta 
with troops, when a wireless call was received from the 
transport Torrilla (5,205 tons), with 2,000 soldiers on 
board. The Benalla was carrying a 4'7-inch gun, and her 
master (Commander C, W. Cockman, R.N.R., retired) 
immediately proceeded to her assistance at full speed. 
He found that the Torrilla was being shelled by a sub- 
marine, and, as she carried only a 3-pounder gun, was 
being outranged by the enemy. Captain Cockman, 
exhibiting fine courage and a high sense of the comrade- 
ship of the sea, at once brought his 4-7-inch gun into 
action at a range of 8,200 yards. His intervention was 


almost immediately successful, for after the third round 
the submarine submerged and made off. For thus saving 
a valuable ship, as well as many lives, Captain Cockburn 
was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. 

For a period of three days British seamen in the 
Mediterranean, as well as in other waters, enjoyed com- 
plete immunity from molestation, and then on the 7th 
a loss was again reported. The Cunard steamship Veria 
(3,229 tons) was steaming towards Alexandria and was 
within twenty-four miles of that port — almost safe from 
danger — when she was intercepted by a submarine and 
destroyed. On the following day the Tintoretto (4,181 
tons) had a narrow escape in the same locality. At 
9.30 a.m. a torpedo was fired at her, but fortunately 
missed the ship astern. The master (Mr. W. Tranter), 
sustained by the presence on board of a 12-pounder gun, 
brought the submarine astern of him, and when the 
enemy opened fire returned it vigorously. A running 
fight was kept up'for nearly four hours, pieces of shell falling 
on board the merchantman, but causing no damage. 
At last the Tintoretto^s gun hit the submarine at extreme 
range, and this success brought the action to a close. 
Captain Tranter, as well as the chief engineer, Mr. J. P. 
Rich, received " mentions," and the Clasp of the Mercan- 
tile Marine Medal, which had by this time been instituted, 
was awarded to this Lambert & Holt liner in recognition 
of the fine defence which had been made against the 
enemy's attack. The same good fortune did not attend 
the Busiris (2,705 tons) on the following day, when she 
was sunk by gunfire 190 miles west-north-west from 
Alexandria, and the Orteric (6,535 tons) was torpedoed by 
the enemy off Gavdo Island. In both cases a deter- 
mined effort was made to escape, in spite of the heavy fire 
to which the vessels were exposed. The master of the 
latter vessel (Mr. G. B. McGill) was encouraged to hold on 
his course by the reply to his wireless signal for help which 
he received from a man-of-war. At last, after the ship 
had been struck eight times, Captain McGill ordered the 
boats to be lowered. While this was being done one 
boat was hit, two men being killed outright and four 
others seriously injured. When the three lifeboats had 
dropped half a mile astern of the Orteric, the submarine 
opened fire on the craft in wliich the chief engineer and 


sixteen hands had taken refuge, but fortunately the 
shots missed their target. It was the good fortune of the 
survivors, left afloat 140 miles from the nearest land, 
to be rescued within an hour and a half. 

Another interlude then occurred during which the 
enemy met with no success. On the 13th the Cawdor 
Castle (6,243 tons) escaped by the use of her gun ; on the 
16th the Teucer (9,045 tons) outpaced the submarine by 
which she was attacked ; and then on the 24th sub- 
marines began once more to take toll of British merchant 
shipping. In the meantime there had been a spasmodic 
outbreak of activity in the English Channel. The Hunily 
(1,153 tons) and Belford (516 tons) were torpedoed without 
warning off Boulogne, and before the month closed sub- 
marines had secured the Van Stirum (3,284 tons) off the 
Smalls, and the Coitingham (513 tons) off Lundy Island ; 
while on the 28th the El Zorro (5,989 tons) was sunk 
near the Old Head of Kinsale, eleven lives altogether 
being lost. The Cottingham was on passage from Rouen 
to Swansea on December 26th, when a submarine opened 
fire on her. It was soon apparent that escape was impos- 
sible, so the engines were stopped and the boats filled. 
The master (Mr. C. Mitchell) was picked up by a patrol- 
boat the same evening, but nothing was ever heard of the 
chief officer and the six men who were with him in the 
other boat, though the Cottingham was sunk within 
sixteen miles of Lundy Island. 

This outburst of activity in the waters surrounding 
the British Isles was of short duration, and in the mean- 
time the enemy continued to pursue his campaign in the 
Mediterranean. On Christmas Eve the Yeddo (4,563 
tons) was captured and bombed off Cape Matapan ; the 
Abelia (3,650 tons) was sunk by gunfire 152 miles from 
Gavdo Island ; and then on the 30th, as the Old Year 
passed into history, the P. & O. liner Persia (7,974 tons) 
and the Clan Macfarlaiie (4,823 tons) were torpedoed 
without warning with a loss of 386 lives. In recognition 
of his services Kapitan-Leutnant Max Valentiner was 
awarded the Ordre pour le Merite. 

The story of the experiences of the officers and men of 
the Clan Macfarlane furnishes the climax of the record 
of the sufferings inflicted on British merchant seamen 
during the year 1915. This defenceless ship was en- 


gaged in her lawful occupation, having left Birkenhead 
on December 16th with a general cargo of about 7,400 
tons. She was on passage to Bombay, and all went 
well until the afternoon of December 30th, when the 
vessel was sixty-three miles S.E. by S. from Cape Mar- 
tello. A good lookout was being maintained as the ship 
pursued her voyage at an average speed of 10 knots. 
Though the atmosphere was clear and there was little 
sea, nothing was seen of enemy submarines. The Clan 
Macfarlane safely navigated the areas associated with 
the greatest danger, and it seemed as though she might 
make Alexandria in safety. 

The master (Mr. James White Swanston) was among the 
fifty-two victims whose lives were sacrificed as the result 
of enemy action, and consequently we are dependent on 
the information, very full and circumstantial, afterwards 
supplied by the chief officer (Mr. F. J. Hawley). He was 
just going on duty at 4 p.m. when the ship was shaken 
by a terrific explosion. He immediately rushed on deck 
and found that the upper hatches of No. 5 hold, which 
had been battened down on leaving Liverpool, had been 
blown out. It was at once apparent that the ship had been 
torpedoed. She carried, fortunately, no passengers ; but 
the crew were largely composed of Indians, and that 
the loss of life was not heavier was due in no slight 
degree to the courage and discipline exhibited by these 
natives under nerve-racking conditions. Mr. Hawley, 
having first ordered the boats to be lowered below the 
level of the harbour deck, sounded No. 5 hold and dis- 
covered that the water had already risen to a height of 
18 inches and that part of the cargo was floating out of 
the steamer through the gaping hole which the enemy's 
torpedo had pierced. A search was made of the fore- 
castles in order to make sure that no one remained in 
them, and then, after conferring with Captain Swanston, 
instructions were given that this fine steamer should be 
abandoned. She was already settling down by the stern 
and darkness was coming on. There was no time to be 

With splendid composure officers and men left the 
steamer in six boats shortly after 5 o'clock and rowed 
to the north so as to keep clear of the sinkin^ ship. After 
an interval of rather more than half an hour, a submarine 


appeared from the southward and fired six shots into the 
Clan Macfaiiane on the port side forward. The sub- 
marine commander made the usual inquiries, and then 
disappeared without a thought for the safety of the men 
in the boats. As the darkness of night fell around him, 
Captain Swanston, undismayed by his misfortune, ordered 
all boats to be placed in line and made fast astern his 
own boat, in order to ensure their keeping together during 
the oncoming night. Fortunately they had all been 
provided with sails, and each man had a lifebelt. So 
masts were stepped and a course was set for Crete, up- 
wards of sixty miles distant. With the wind blowing 
from the west, the little boats continued to sail through- 
out that night and during the succeeding day, the sea 
happily remaining comparatively calm. 

In the course of the afternoon land was sighted and 
the spirits of all on board rose. The survivors continued 
on their course in the expectation of speedy deliverance, 
but in the early hours of New Year's Day the wind 
dropped. Captain Swanston held a conference with his 
officers, and it was decided to separate the boats and 
take to oars. In these conditions some progress was 
made. By 10 o'clock that morning a light wind had 
sprung up and the craft once more set their sails. As 
evening closed in the boats were again made fast together 
astern of the captain's boat, in order that they might 
not lose touch with each other during the night. Early 
on the morning of January 2nd a glimpse was caught 
of the north-east corner of the island of Crete, but in 
the meantime the wind had risen and the sea was be- 
coming rough, so sail was shortened and a course was 
set along the coast. A landing could not be effected 
owing to the high sea which was running ; it was 
therefore determined to hug the coast at a distance of 
three or four miles on the chance of the weather condi- 
tions improving. 

By this time the unfortunate men had become exhausted 
by exposure, and to add to their troubles a tow-rope 
parted, with the result that the third officer's and second 
engineer's boats went adrift. The captain, seized with 
a high sense of his duty, cast off his boat to go in search 
of the missing craft. It was an almost hopeless task in 
the darkness which prevailed. Mr. Hawley, the chief 


officer, lay to with the other boats throughout the night. 
The weather, far from improving, became increasingly 
bad, and weary and dispirited as they were, the men 
had to bale continually. In the meantime death claimed 
five of the natives in the chief officer's boat and one died 
in the second engineer's boat. 

At daylight on January 3rd the captain's boat was 
sighted. The search had failed. Three more native 
seamen had succumbed owing to exposure. The outlook 
was desperate as the remaining boats were once more 
made fast to one another. That afternoon it was regretfully 
realised that one of the boats was unseaworthy, so it was 
abandoned ; the fourth engineer and six natives were 
transferred to the chief officer's boat, and two other 
natives went into the captain's boat. Hardly had this re- 
adjustment of the burden been completed, when the 
rudder of the captain's craft was carried away. So Cap- 
tain Swanston cast off and made fast to the stern of the 
second officer's boat, and the chief officer was left at the 
head of the pitiful procession of little boats, buffeted 
by wind and wave. Late that afternoon, owing to the 
rising wind and sea, the surviving boats were once more 
in danger of being swamped. The captain, therefore, 
lay to and set a reefed jib, an oar being used for steering, 
while the chief officer's boat also lay to with its sea anchor 

Throughout the night the little craft, labouring 
heavily, continued to ship seas and the men were kept 
hard at work baling out the water. With characteristic 
courage they fought the elements throughout the night, 
and then at dawn were distressed to find the captain's 
boat was missing. At noon, however, it was sighted, 
making in a westerly direction. Mr. Hawley decided 
to follow, and set jib and reefed lug sail for that purpose. 
As he had the second officer's boat in tow, he could make 
little headway. Efforts to attract Captain Swanston's 
attention failed, and as darkness fell the master's boat 
was lost sight of. It was not seen again, and it will 
never be known how this undaunted seaman and his 
companions, adrift in their rudderless boat on a distressed 
sea, met their end. 

Early on the morning of January 5th Mr. Hawley 
was forced by circumstances to abandon another boat. 


and the second officer and the fifth engineer, together 
with seven natives, passed over to the chief officer's 
boat. The operation was a hazardous one, and in the 
process the rudder of the chief officer's boat was carried 
away. High seas were running and the outlook was as 
black as it could well be. As the light broke over the 
waters the survivors of the Clan Macfarlane found them- 
selves fighting grimly for life as the waves broke over the 
bulwarks of their frail craft. Hope revived at noon as 
the smoke of a steamer was seen at a distance, but the 
vessel disappeared. Thus another day passed and night 

Early the following morning, January 6th, the second 
cook, who had died from exposure, was buried, and before 
noon one of the boys and a native fireman had also suc- 
cumbed to the ordeal to which they had been exposed 
by the enemy's inhumanity. It seemed as though the 
struggle was hopeless, but at last wind and sea began to 
moderate, and Mr. Hawley was seized with the faint belief 
that he might make the Port of Alexandria, which he 
reckoned to be about 250 miles off. So, with the reef lug 
sail set, he steered his little boat as well as he could with 
an oar on an east-north-easterly course. Throughout that 
night the chief officer and the second officer took alter- 
nate watches, and noticed with returning confidence that 
the sea was becoming quieter. Their hopes were again 
dashed ; as daylight came the wind shifted and the sea 
began to rise once more. The little company was now a 
small one, for another native had died from exposure, 
and the captain's boy had also fallen into his last sleep. 
It seemed as though there might not be a single sur- 
vivor. Just when hope had been wellnigh abandoned, a 
steamer was sighted about three miles distant. The dis- 
tressed seamen had no means of attracting her attention 
except by waving articles of clothing. Would the signals 
be seen ? Doubt was soon resolved into certainty as the 
strange vessel, which was revealed as the Crown of Aragon, 
bore down to perform her errand of mercy. 

Mr. Hawley and his companions had been adrift in 
their small boats for seven days and seven nights, and the 
only wonder was that any of them had survived to tell 
the tale of their sufferings. During the passage of the 
Crown of Aragon to Malta t\vo more natives died, worn 


out by all they had gone through. The voyage to Malta 
was marked by an incident which raised fears that after 
all the rescue might prove vain. For a submarine was 
sighted as the Crown of Aragon was making her way to 
Malta. The vessel carried a 12-pounder gun. So the 
master turned the stern of his ship on the enemy and 
prepared to fight if need be. The submarine, taking note 
of this manoeuvre, submerged and made off. In this way 
the twenty-four remaining members of the crew of the 
Clan Macfarlane, six Europeans and eighteen natives, 
escaped almost as by a miracle from the fate which had 
overwhelmed fifty-two of their companions. 

Though the Germans continued from time to time to 
harry British merchant ships in the southern part of the 
North Sea by aircraft attack during the period when 
operations by submarines in British waters were sus- 
pended, they met with no success. The story of the 
General Steam Navigation Company's steamer Balgownie 
(1,061 tons) reveals the spirit with which masters and men 
stood up against this new form of warfare. This vessel 
was on passage from London to Rotterdam in the closing 
days of November, when she was surprised by the enemy. 
Captain Goodson's resource and courage led to the pre- 
sentation to him of a cheque for one hundred guineas 
from the War Risks Association, a similar sum being 
distributed among the crew. In making the presentation 
to Captain Goodson, Sir Kenneth Anderson, President of 
the Chamber of Shipping, briefly recalled the facts as 
they had been modestly recorded in the Captain's log. At 
about 2.30 p.m. on November 27ththecrewof the Balgownie 
were surprised by the rapid approach from the south-east 
of three flying machines, which dropped about twenty- 
three bombs, some of which fell within half a ship's length 
of the vessel. After attacking for about twenty minutes 
and using up all their bombs, two of the aircraft continued 
to fire with machine guns until their ammunition was 
exhausted, the bullets dropping on and around the ship 
like rain. The vessel kept on a zigzag course at full 
speed, the only weapon being the ship's distress rockets, of 
which the fullest use was made, and the captain fired 
over fifty rounds from his rifle. Although the shots did 
not strike the machines, they made them fly higher, and 
no doubt saved the ship. 


During the closing months of 1915, when the enemy 
desisted from employing submarines in home waters, a 
number of other merchant vessels were attacked by air- 
craft in the vicinity of the Belgian coast, but all the 
bombs which they dropped fell harmlessly in the water, 
though all the vessels were unarmed and were therefore 
unable to prevent the aeroplanes from approaching close 
to them. 



The ordeal in the Mediterranean which British seamen 
were confronting with characteristic courage had attracted 
httle attention until the P. & O. liner Persia was sunk on 
December 30th, 1915. In the case of the Lusitania, the 
enemy claimed that she had been built as an auxiliary 
cruiser of the British Fleet, that she was armed, and that 
she was carrying ammunition from the United States to 
a British port. These excuses for an act of inhumanity 
which shocked the civilised world have already been 
discussed.^ The Persia was admittedly nothing more than 
an ordinary passenger ship, and the Germans had promised 
that passenger ships should not be molested ; she was on 
her way from England to Indian ports and was under no 
suspicion of carrying munitions ; she mounted a small 
gun aft, but it was available only for defence and, in the 
sudden emergency on December 30th, proved useless. 
Yet, in face of the pledges which had been given to the 
American Government, she was torpedoed without warn- 
ing, and such was the eflect of the explosion that within 
five minutes she had disappeared in the waters of the 
Mediterranean. Her destruction resulted in the loss of 
334 lives. 

The Persia (7,974 tons) had been built at Greenock 
in 1900, and was a sister ship of the Egypt, Arabia, China, 
and India, belonging to a class of vessel which was, at 
the time of building, the largest in the P. & O. Company's 
service. She held a passenger certificate issued by the 
Government of Bombay, allowing 530 passengers and 
300 crew. The lifeboat accommodation, consisting of 
eighteen lifeboats capable of accommodating 830 persons, 
was far more than sufficient for all persons on board at 
the time of the casualty, and the large loss of life was 

1 Vol. I., pp. 410-28. 



accounted for by the fact that the vessel took a sudden 
list after being torpedoed and sank within five minutes. 
Owing to the list it was not possible to lower the star- 
board boats, and owing to the short time she remained 
afloat only five or six of the port boats could be lowered. 

The Persia left Tilbury on December 18th with 201 
passengers, including many women and children, and had 
a crew of 317. She was bound for Port Said, Aden, and 
Bombay, and in addition to mails carried a general cargo. 
The early stage of the voyage was uneventful ; the Persia 
called en route at Gibraltar and Marseilles, and then at 
Malta, where five of the passengers and two of the crew 
were landed. 

On Thursday, December 30th, at about ten minutes 
past one in the afternoon, when the Persia (master, 
Mr. W. H. S. Hall) had reached a position about lat. 
34° 1' N., long. 26° 0' E., she was torpedoed, without 
warning, by a German submarine. The passengers were 
at lunch at the time, the second officer, Mr. Harold Geof- 
frey Stephen Wood, was in charge on the bridge, Captain 
Hall and the chief officer, Mr. Gerald Clark, both being 
in their cabins. As usual precautions against the sub- 
marine menace had been adopted. On the previous day 
everyone on board had been assigned to a boat and drill 
had taken place. Instructions had been issued that all 
passengers in case of emergency were to assemble on the 
promenade deck, the boats, it was added, would be let 
down from the boat deck above until they reached the level 
of the promenade deck, when the passengers would get 
into them. There was no thought that only a matter of 
five minutes would be available for saving everyone on 

At the moment of the explosion a native seaman was 
on the lookout forward ; another native seaman was 
in the crow's-nest, while a British able seaman and a 
native were on the lookout on the lower bridge. A 
British able seaman was at the wheel. There was a 
moderate breeze blowing west by north, and a certain 
amount of swell, and the ship was proceeding at her full 
speed of about 16 knots, when the first warning of any- 
thing untoward came. The second officer caught sight 
of the wake of a torpedo rapidly approaching the Persia 
about four points on the port bow. It was so close that 

206 SINKING OF THE " PERSIA " [ch. viii 

before Mr. Wood could turn to put the helm hard a-star- 
board the vessel had been struck — just abaft the forward 
funnel on the port side, a violent explosion shaking the 
ship from stem to stern. This explosion was immediately 
followed by a second one, due to the blowing up of the 

The second officer immediately went to the whistle, 
intending to sound the prearranged emergency signal, but 
found that all steam had gone. He then ran down to 
Captain Hall, who had left his cabin and come to the lower 
bridge, and Captain Hall ordered him to get the boats out. 
Mr. Wood hurried at once to his station on the poop, 
noticing on his way that there was a great hole in the 
hurricane deck on the port side, presumably due to the ex- 
plosion of a boiler. The ship was then listing heavily to 
port, and continued to heel over until she lay on her port 
side, before disappearing within only about five minutes of 
the explosion of the torpedo. Within this brief time, how- 
ever, Mr. Wood was able to see to the lowering of two 
port boats on the poop deck, which were loaded with 
men and women passengers and a few of the crew. He 
then loosened the gripes of two inboard boats and 
attempted to lower a starboard boat, which was found 
to be impossible owing to the list which the Persia had 
taken. One of the port poop boats floated clear, but the 
other was pressed down by the davits as the ship turned 
over. The Persia was still making way, although with 
lessening speed, which rendered the lowering of the boats 
a difficult operation. 

Meanwhile the chief officer (Mr. Gerald Clark), who had 
been momentarily dazed through having been struck by 
some of the furniture shaken from the walls of his cabin, 
had seized a lifebelt and axe and ran up to the boat deck. 
There he saw that the boats from the poop deck were 
already being lowered, and he at once, therefore, went to 
the assistance of those who were attempting to lower the 
boats from the boat deck, using his axe, where necessary, 
in order to clear the boats as quickly as possible. He 
remained on the boat deck freeing the boats as fast as 
this could be done, in the hope that, although there was 
no time to load them, they might be of service in picking 
up survivors from the water. He was occupied in this 
way until the listing of the vessel became so steep that 


he found it impossible to keep his feet any longer, where- 
upon he slid into the water, to be eventually picked up 
by No. 2 boat. 

The second officer had also slipped into the water, and 
had succeeded in swimming to an empty boat, into which 
he climbed himself, afterwards saving several lives. This 
boat was one of the inboard boats which he himself had 
helped to loosen, and both of them had fortunately floated 
clear. Ultimately Mr. Wood succeeded in getting forty- 
three people into his boat, the chief officer afterwards 
sending across five more from No. 2 boat. Unfortunately, 
owing to the fact that the Persia was still under way, 
most of the boats that had been loosened were swamped, 
torn away, or capsized. Only five got finally free of 
the rapidly sinking ship. Four of these boats were 
afterwards joined together and an attempt was made to 
row back to the scene of the Persians disappearance, but 
in view of the overladen condition of the boats and the 
contrary wind and swell, this was found to be impossible. 

The boats had all been swung out from the davits at 
the time of the explosion, and the understanding with 
the engine-room staff had been that in the event of the 
ship being struck by a mine or torpedo, the engines were 
to be instantly stopped. Unfortunately it seems probable 
that the engineers were in the stokehold at the time, 
superintending the cleaning of the fires, and were either 
killed by the explosion of the torpedo or as the result of the 
boiler explosion that followed. Altogether, out of the 
total number of 501 persons on board the Persia, only 
167 were saved, 65 being passengers, including 2 children, 
and 102 crew ; 121 passengers and 213 of the crew were 
lost. Throughout the afternoon and the following night 
the four boats remained together, and were finally picked 
up about 7 o'clock in the evening of December 31st 
by the mine-sweeper Mallow, which took the survivors 
to Alexandria. None of the ship's papers could be saved, 
and nothing was seen of Captain Hall, who presumably 
went down with his ship. 

In view of the fact that most of the passengers were 
below at lunch when the explosion occurred, that the 
engine-room instructions could not be carried out, and 
that within five minutes of the impact the vessel had 
disappeared, it is a striking tribute to the courage, quick- 


208 SINKING OF THE " PERSIA " [ch. vm 

wittedness, discipline, and seamanship of the surviving 
officers and crew that so many lives were ultimately 
saved. An impression of the scene on board the vessel 
and of the subsequent experiences of those on board is 
conveyed in a graphic statement of Mr. Grant, an American 
business man, who, with two of his fellow-countrymen, 
was on board the Persia. The American Consul at Aden 
was among those drowned. 

" I was sitting," said Mr. Grant, " in the dining saloon 
at five minutes past one, and had just finished my soup. 
The steward was asking me what I would take as a 
second course, when there was a terrific explosion, and the 
saloon was filled with broken glass, and with smoke and 
steam from the boiler, which seemed to have burst. 
There was no panic. We went on deck as if we were at 
boat drill, and I reported myself at my lifeboat on the 
starboard side. The vessel was listing to port and I clung 
on to the rail. . . . The vessel gradually listed more and 
more, and it was impossible to launch any of the starboard 
boats. Finally I climbed over the starboard rail and 
slid down into the water. I was sucked down and got 
caught in a rope, which pulled off my shoe, but, breaking 
loose, I got to the surface again and clambered on to 
some wreckage, to which I clung. The last I saw of the 
Persia was her bow pointing high in the air, and that 
was only five minutes after the explosion. While thus 
supporting myself, I managed to collect other wreckage 
for others to cling to. It was past 4 o'clock before I 
was picked up by a boat. I then saw that there were 
five boats pulling around in search of any other persons 
who might still be struggling in the water. Some of 
the boats were overloaded, and subsequently there was 
a redistribution of their occupants. Four of the boats 
were then tied together by their painters. The fifth 
was some distance away. At half-past three the following 
morning my boat separated from the others to search 
for help in a more frequented channel. We rowed for 
three hours, and at last saw a cruiser. We called out 
' We are English,' and explained that we were survivors 
from the Persia, which had been sunk. We also gave 
particulars as to the whereabouts of the other boats. 
These were found about 7 o'clock, and the occupants 


were taken off by the English sailors. The end was a 
horrible scene. The water was as black as ink. Some 
of the people were screaming ; others were saying good- 
bye to each other ; while those in one of the boats were 
singing hymns." 

The torpedoing of the Persia was viewed from another 
angle by Mr. Walter Ernest Smith, assistant engineer 
of the condenser plant, Port Said. He was travelling 
second class, sharing his cabin with a friend, Mr. Knight. 
He was in his cabin washing his hands for lunch when 
there was an explosion. 

" I immediately got hold of a lifebelt and started to 
make my way up on deck. On my way I came across 
a lady I had met on the boat who was standing dazed, 
doing nothing. I asked why she did not get her belt 
on, and seeing that she was stupefied, I gave her mine 
and went back to my cabin to get my own life-saving 
jacket ; she was not amongst those who were saved. 
When I left my cabin the second time, I noticed that 
women and children were lying about, some evidently 
in a dead faint and others moaning and crying out. One 
woman I remember particularly, a Frenchwoman, who 
was leaning up against the rail in the corridor outside 
the cabins, was quite dazed. Seeing she was not in a 
fit state to help herself, I pushed her along, and that 
seemed to rouse her. I practically got her on to the 
deck, where someone else took the lifebelt from her, 
fastened it on her, and pushed her overboard. She was 

" When I got up to the boat deck I found Knight and 
another man in one end of our boat, and the carpenter 
and another sailor in the other end. They were trying 
to get her away. The three pins had been displaced 
and the fourth had stuck, as we had foreseen. Knight 
said 'An axe. Smith; this is jammed.' There were no 
axes in the boat. I was then in the boat and looked 
around and picked up a broken oar and handed it to him, 
and he gave the pin a whack with it. The pin luckily 
gave way and the last lashing was free. By this time 
the Persia was at a big angle, leaning over to the port 
side, that is, on the side the torpedo had struck her, 

210 SINKING OF THE " PERSIA " [ch. viii 

and so when we freed the last lashing our boat swung 
out from the side of the vessel and then bumped back 
again into her side. We all lost our feet in the boat, 
and one man was pitched over the side into the sea. 
Knight was pitched out of the boat, and I could only see 
his finger-tips above the side of the boat as he clung on. 
He managed to scramble on board our boat again. 

" By this time the stern of the Persia was settling 
down. While I was helping in our boat I saw a boat 
next to us, full of people, being lowered down. All of a 
sudden one of the davit ropes broke, and that end of the 
boat fell down and everyone and everything fell straight 
into the sea. The other davit rope then gave way, and 
the boat landed in the water right way up and quite dry, 
but no one was in her. People then, who, I supposed, 
had jumped off the Persia farther forward, began to climb 
into this empty boat until, I suppose, there were about 
twenty to thirty people in her. She had remained fast 
to the Persia by her painter or one of her davit ropes. 
I then saw another boat empty of people fall right on 
the top of the boat in the water, and it appeared to me 
that most of the people in her must have been crushed. 
I saw some of them pinned between the two boats. We 
had failed to get the davit ropes of our boat loose in time, 
and the stern of the Persia was now low in the water. 
We waited until our boat touched the water, and then, as 
the Persia still sank, we unhooked the hooks of our davit 
ropes from the davits and thought we were free. Knight, 
however, cried out, ' A knife. Smith ; the painter is 
fastened.' He said the davit had caught our painter. 
I gave him my pocket-knife and he cut the painter with 
it and we were free. We then were sucked right across 
the stern of the sinking Persia. We were then in the 
boat six — three passengers and three crew, the latter 
all white. 

" We were fascinated by the sinking Persia, and also 
we were kept over the sinking boat by the suction. After 
she had sunk, we got out the oars and pulled out of the 
way of the \\Teckage. We immediately started to pull 
people in. There were a good many people in the water. 
All people we picked up had lifebelts. After some time 
we got in, I suppose, nearly fifty people. Among them 
were five women. There was not room in the boats for 


all the people in the water. Five boats altogether, I 
believe, got away, but I only saw four — that is to say 
our own, No. 14, and No. 14a, which was next to ours on 
the Persia and must have floated off when the Persia 
sank. There was also No. 16 and the accident-boat, 
which was under the command of the chief officer. He 
took charge of all the boats, but we never had anyone 
who actually took charge in our boat. There were 
several seamen, besides the carpenter, but as there was 
no officer in the boat, the seamen were reluctant to obey 
in particular one of themselves, and if any one of the pas- 
sengers offered a suggestion he was told to shut up. Some 
time after we had got clear I saw a small boat away on 
my side of the boat and Knight saw one also on his side. 
I saw a boat, too, which I took to be a tramp, and as I 
watched her — this was about 4.30 p.m. — I saw an explosion 
take place forward of her foremast. She did not sink 
at once, as we watched her for an hour or more, but 
the next morning she was no longer there. Before night- 
fall the chief officer ordered us to make an anchor, which 
we let down, and the other boats were moored to us in 
a line. 

" After dark we saw the lights of a vessel, and we 
burnt our flares, but she took no notice of us. The next 
morning we saw a large Cunarder. Directly we saw her 
the chief officer instructed the second officer to set sail 
and head her off. This he did and got close to her, but 
directly she saw him she sheered off. This he told us 
afterwards. In the afternoon the chief officer, who had 
kept the best men in his boat — I think they were mostly 
passengers — said he was going to row in the direction of 
Port Said. This was about 3 p.m. After dark we saw 
the head light of a vessel. We watched it anxiously and 
burnt our flares. Finally we also saw the starboard light, 
and then the port light, and we knew she was heading 
towards us. When she got fairly close to us all the people 
in our boat got up, and as no one controlled our boat, she 
was soon broadside on to the sea. I do not know why 
we did not capsize. Knight was shouting to everyone 
to sit down. Finally we got alongside. There was a 
bit of a sea running, and they were only able to let down 
a rope ladder. We had some difficulty in getting the 
women up ; one of them stuck halfway up, and I thought 

212 SINKING OF THE " PERSIA " [ch. viii 

she would get crushed the next time we rose on a wave, 
but Knight and I managed to push her up. Knight and 
I then scrambled on board. The ship was the Mallow, 
one of H.M. ships." 

A noteworthy tribute to the discipline and promptitude 
of the crew was paid by Lord Montagu of Beauheu, one 
of the passengers, who was for some time presumed to 
have been drowned. Lord Montagu was at luncheon 
with the rest of the passengers when the explosion occurred, 
and at once went to the station which had been allotted 
to him in No. 6 boat on the port side in case of emergency. 
He saw that the boats were already being lowered. He 
realised, however, in view of the rapid heeling over of 
the vessel, that it would probably be impossible to get 
into them, and therefore, with great difficulty, he started 
to climb up the starboard side, trying to pull up with 
him his lady secretary, who happened to be standing by. 
He was then swept off his feet by the rush of water along 
the promenade deck, and the next moment he was over- 
board. The ship then sank, and he was sucked down 
a long way, striking his head and body against several 
pieces of wreckage. He ultimately came to the surface 
again, thanks in part to the buoyancy of the life-saving 
waistcoat which he was wearing at the time. " So far 
as I am a judge," said Lord Montagu, " I am convinced 
that the commander, the officers, and the crew did all 
that was possible to be done under the terrible circum- 

When he had sufficiently recovered his senses to look 
around. Lord Montagu saw that the sea was covered 
with struggling human beings, but comparatively little 
wreckage. He swam towards a signal locker that he 
observed near-by, but found the ship's doctor chnging to 
this, apparently in a stunned condition and with an 
injury to his head. The locker being only sufficient to 
support one person. Lord Montagu then swam towards a 
boat floating upside-down some fifty yards away. A 
number of native seamen were clinging to this boat, a 
larger number than it was properly able to support. 
Eventually, however. Lord Montagu managed to climb 
up and get astride of the keel band on the extreme end 
aft, and from this position saw a boat only half filled 


a short distance away. He shouted, but without 
succeeding in drawing the attention of the occupants, 
to whom frantic cries for help were rising up from all 

" About an hour after the disaster," Lord Montagu said, 
" there were left on the upturned boat six Europeans 
and about a score of the native crew. The others had 
dropped off as they became too weak to hold on. At 
this time the boat was suddenly righted by a big wave, 
and with great difficulty we scrambled into her. I then 
discovered that not only had she a large hole in the bot- 
tom, but that her bows were split open as well. She 
was in a state of extreme instability, for some of the air 
tanks, which showed me that she was one of the lifeboats, 
were smashed, and others were perforated. The smallest 
weight on the starboard side tended to capsize her again. 
This, indeed, happened many times before we were picked 
up, and added very greatly to our sufferings. By sunset 
most of us were sitting up to our knees in water. When 
the sun went down on the first day there remained of the 
original party in the boat, thirteen native seamen and 
firemen, two native stewards, an English steward 
named Martin, an Italian second-class passenger, Mr. Alex- 
ander Clark (a Scottish second-class passenger), and 
myself. If it had not been for Mr. Clark and Martin, 
the steward, who more than once helped us to climb 
back into the boat when she capsized, I should have had 
little chance of surviving. Though there was not much 
wind, there was a considerable swell, and nearly all the 
time the sea was breaking over us. Before the night 
was half gone several more natives died from exhaustion, 
and as the bodies were washed about in the boat we made 
efforts to throw them overboard. The night seemed 
interminable. About 8 p.m. a steamer, with her saloon 
lights all showing, passed about one mile to the southward. 
I think she must have been a neutral boat. We tried to 
attract her attention by shouting, and the other ship's 
boat to the eastward burned two red flares ; but no 
notice was taken, a submarine ruse probably being 
suspected. At dawn next morning there were only eleven 
all told left in the boat. About three hours after sunrise 
we saw a two-funnelled and two-masted steamer away 

214 SINKING OF THE " PERSIA " [ch. vm 

to the southward, and our hopes were again raised. We 
hoisted a piece of torn flag on the one oar left in the boat, 
and the other ship's boat, which seemed to be floating 
high and well, also signalled. The ship, however, passed 
westward bound, about three miles away. For the rest 
of the day we saw nothing. One of the native crew about 
noon managed to get a tin of biscuits from the locker in 
the boat under the thwarts, and we ate a little of this, 
though it was spoilt by the salt water. 

" We had then been nearly thirty hours without food 
or water. I myself had had nothing but a cup of tea 
and a biscuit since dinner on the 29th. I felt the heat 
of the sun a good deal, as I had only a small khaki scarf 
for protection. At sunset on Friday we had practically 
given up all hope of being saved. ... I found it a great 
struggle to keep awake. The tendency to drowsiness 
was almost irresistible, but to fall asleep would have 
meant the end. We capsized once more about 7 
o'clock through the Italian turning light-headed. He had 
yielded to the temptation to drink salt water. In this 
accident we lost the tin of biscuits and the red flares 
we had hoped to use during the night. Then about 8 
o'clock we saw the masthead lights of a steamer away 
to the eastward. At first I thought it was only a rising 
star, for there was very clear visibility that evening. 
Presently I could discern her side lights, which suggested 
that she was coming pretty nearly straight for us. When 
she came closer we started shouting in unison. . . . When 
the ship was half a mile away, she ported her helm, stopped 
her engines, and appeared to be listening. We knew 
then that, like other ships, she expected a ruse and dare 
not approach until she had made further investigations. 

" After some time she came nearer and we heard a shout 
from her bridge. Then her steam whistle was blown. I 
dared to hope, though hope had almost died within us. We 
tried to explain that we were helpless and had no means 
of getting alongside. Eventually the captain of this 
ship — Captain Allen — which proved to be the Alfred Holt 
steamer Ning Chow, bound from China to London, very 
cleverly manoeuvred her alongside our wreckage. We 
were by this time like a cracked eggshell. Bow lines were 
passed round us by a plucky Russian and an English 
quartermaster, and we were eventually hoisted on board. 


The captain and his officers did all they could for us. 
I should like to mention that it was Mr. Allan Maclean — 
a Maclean of Duart, Island of Mull — the third officer of 
the ship, who was the officer of the watch at the time, 
and he first appears to have heard our cries. His alert- 
ness and keen sense of hearing were our salvation. I 
consider it was a very courageous thing for the captain 
to stop for us, as he and his officers knew they were in the 
danger zone, and ran the risk of being torpedoed them- 
selves while they were helping us. Once on board we 
began slowly to recover from the exposure and our 
injuries. We arrived at Malta at dawn on January 3rd." 

In a lesser degree, the harrowing experience of Lord 
Montagu and his companions were those of all other 
survivors, exposed as they were, in a drenched condition, 
for over thirty hours in open boats, while the fate of the 
others shocked the whole civilised world. As in the case 
of the Lusitania and of the many similar, if less conspicu- 
ous, outrages that were to follow, the traditions of the 
British Mercantile Marine were nobly exemplified, both 
in respect of decision in emergency and instant readiness 
for self-sacrifice. 

It should be added that, although the Persia was armed 
with one gun for purposes of defence, this was not used, the 
Persia neither threatening to attack nor trying to escape 
from the submarine responsible for her loss, which was 
never seen by anybody on board, and from which no 
warning was received. 

In replying to a number of questions in the House of 
Commons on March 8th, 1916, with reference to the sink- 
ing of the Persia, the President of the Board of Trade 
(Mr. Walter llunciman) said : 

" I would like to add a word of appreciation, in which 
I am sure the House would like to join me, of the coolness 
and courage of the passengers and crew and the discipline 
of the ship maintained in face of this sudden and appal- 
ling disaster. I am told that the captain, officers, and 
engineers of the Persia had spent their lives in the com- 
pany's service, and all had unblemished records. The 
country is deeply indebted to those who are facing the 
perils to which our merchant ships are being subjected." 



In the early days of 1916 a merchant ship on her way 
from the Spanish coast to India was destroyed by the 
enemy, and her officers and men left adrift in their small 
boats on a stormy sea 200 miles from the nearest land ; 
the one boat which survived the fierce onslaught of the 
natural forces reached the North African coast at Ras 
Amana after six days. Events were to prove that the 
unfortunate men had only escaped from the merciless 
sea to be attacked by marauding Bedouins. Three men 
were killed, two were wounded, and ten others were 
carried away as prisoners by the Bedouins, to suffer in 
captivity for a period of nearly eight months. 

The steamer Coquet (4,396 tons) put out from Torrevieja, 
on the Spanish coast, on the last day of the Old Year 
with 6,200 tons of salt, which she was to land at Rangoon. 
The ship was well found, the officers and men were com- 
petent, and until just before noon on January 4th the 
voyage proved uneventful. The master (Mr. Arnold 
C. B. Groom) had adopted the usual precautions. A 
seaman was on the lookout forward, the two lifeboats 
were slung out ready for lowering, and a man at the wheel 
kept his eyes skinned. The third officer was in charge 
on the bridge. Captain Groom was in the saloon when he 
heard a gunshot, and as he ran on deck there was another 
report, two shells passing across the steamer's bow. Though 
the breeze was only moderate, there was a heavy swell, 
and from the deck of the Coquet the captain was able to 
make out very indistinctly the form of a submarine on 
the port quarter, but several of the crew had noticed 
another submarine on the port bow. Confronted with 
two of the most highly developed scientific weapons for 
making war by sea, the captain instantly realised that his 
only course was to stop his engines and order the boats 



to be got ready. The Coquet was already losing way when 
the master hurriedly placed his confidential papers in the 
galley fire. When he next looked out over the tossing 
waters he saw that one of the submarines (the other having 
disappeared) was flying a signal to abandon ship immedi- 

The master, with his officers and men, at once 
got into the two boats, and the submarine then opened 
a fusillade on the merchantman ; eight shots were fired 
at the ship, but not a single one hit her. The enemy 
craft drew in closer and ordered the boats to proceed 
alongside. " This was a dangerous proceeding," Captain 
Groom afterwards recorded, " as the submarine's deck was 
just awash and there was a big swell." At any moment 
the frail boats might have been dashed to pieces, and as it 
was they suffered considerable injury, which afterwards 
contributed to the sufferings of the survivors of this 
outrage on the high seas. Captain Groom was ordered 
on board the submarine, to discover that she was 
manned, in the main, by officers and men who were 
wearing Austrian uniform. A boarding party, armed 
with revolvers and cutlasses, got into the two boats and 
they were ordered to return to the Coquet. All hands 
were given twenty minutes in which to collect what 
they wanted to take with them. At the same time the 
captors ransacked the ship and lowered one of the small 
boats, in readiness to carry away them and their loot. 
When they had got all they wanted, they ordered the two 
lifeboats to return to the submarine, set two time-fuse 
bombs under water abreast Nos. 1 and 2 holds of the 
merchant man, and left the ship themselves. Shortly 
afterwards there were two explosions, and the ship settled 
down by the head. Within four or five minutes the 
Coquet lifted her stern high in the air, something hit the 
whistle lanyard, and with a pitiful scream the Coquet 

During these proceedings Captain Groom had been 
under close cross-examination by the commander of the 
submarine, who spoke passable English. He was plied 
with questions as to the progress of the war, but managed 
to parry the inquiries, probably conveying the impression 
that he was not a very intelligent officer of the British 
Mercantile Marine. The one-sided conversation was still 


in progress when the two hfeboats returned, the men 
vigorously using buckets to bale out the water which was 
finding its way into the injured craft. Captain Groom 
pointed out to the commander of the enemy submarine 
that the bilge planks of both boats had most likely been 
sprung while they were alongside his awash deck. " I 
told him it was nothing short of murder to send thirty-one 
men away like that, in the middle of winter and so far 
from land. He laughed and said he would save the next 
ship and send her to look for us." The thought that these 
unfortunate mariners were about to be cast adrift on the 
wide expanse of the heaving seas of the Mediterranean must 
have seemed to Captain Groom demoniacal. The captors, 
however, were in no mood for mercy. As soon as the boats 
were alongside, they searched them for anything appealing 
to their fancy, taking chronometers, sextants, and charts, 
and every scrap of paper they could find, including the 
master's "account of wages." Captain Groom was then 
directed to take his place in one of the boats, and the 
submarine made off, having added a fresh page to the 
record of inhumanity by sea which was being compiled by 
the men to whom the prosecution of the submarine cam- 
paign had been entrusted. 

Only those who are familiar with the Mediterranean in 
its angrier moods can appreciate the feelings of the master 
of the Coquet as he looked over the heaving waters and 
realised how much depended upon his own personal 
courage, seamanlike skill, and tempered judgment. The 
nearest land was 200 miles distant. What hope was there 
that the two boats, with their load of thirty-one men, 
could reach it ? 

" As we were well to the northward," he has stated, 
" I deemed it wisest to steer south (especially as the wind 
was freshening from the north to north-north-west), as we 
should then be running right across all the tracks of the 
steamers between Port Said and Alexandria and Malta. 
We ran so until nearly dark, when a steamer was sighted. 
We saw her hull. The mate's boat, which was a good bit 
nearer to her than we were, showed three red flares, 
and we showed one, but if she saw them — and I don't 
see how she could have failed to do so if any lookout 
at all were being kept — she took no notice of us. The 





sea was getting too dangerous to sail any longer, so mast 
and sail were taken down and sea anchor put out ; the 
latter, although of ' B.O.T.' dimensions, proved very 
inefficient as regards keeping the boat head on to the sea ; 
latterly we used the mast instead. We were very soon 
all wet through, and remained so practically for the next 
six days (the whole of the time we were in the boat). 

" Heavy weather, with a cold northerly and westerly 
wind, continued all that night. ' Allowance ' of biscuits 
and water was started right away that night, viz., two 
and a half biscuits and two gills of water per man per day ; 
latterly I increased the water allowance, finding it was 
not enough with so much salt spray about. All the 
able-bodied men had to take their turn at baling, two at 
a time ; the steward, who firstly was old, and secondly 
ill, I made exempt from this work, also the four boys I 
had, who were very young, also seasick and somewhat 
frightened, I fancy. The boat was very overloaded with 
seventeen in it, and was ankle-deep in water, in spite of 
vigorous baling with the two buckets. The next day, the 
5th, I got the carpenter to take out three of the water- 
tight tanks on the side where the plank was split, and 
caulk it roughly from inside with bits of shirt ; this stopped 
the leaking a little." 

Throughout that day and the following night the 
weather continued stormy, and all hopes of being picked 
up by a passing steamer had been abandoned, when just 
before daylight on the 6th Captain Groom was encouraged 
by the sight of a dark object which was disclosed, away 
to the seaward, as his boat rose on the crest of the waves. 
It appeared and then disappeared, and at last he con- 
cluded that it might be a steamer creeping along with 
everj^hing darkened, so he lighted a red flare. In reply 
a red flare duly appeared, and hopes ran high. But the 
signal which had given such joy proved to have been 
made from the mate's boat. There was consolation in 
company, but the chances of falling in with shipping 
were reduced if the two boats kept together, so as the 
mate drew in towards him. Captain Groom shouted out 
that he had better keep some distance away in order to 
increase the possibility of rescue. So the two boats 
drifted apart, and the mate and his companions were 


never seen again. What happened to them remains a 
matter of sad surmise. 

" The weather got a little worse that night and we used 
the oil-bag with good effect in keeping the breaking sea- 
tops flat. No change on the day or night of the 7th ; 
everybody chilled to the bone with that northerly wind 
blowing right through our saturated clothes ; we all used 
to look forward to the daylight coming, in the hopes of 
seeing a little sun ; but it was nearly always covered 
with clouds. Several of us had excruciating pains in the 
ankles, knees, and wrists ; the poor little Italian boy was 
crying all one night with them in his sleep, and, of course, 
I could do absolutely nothing for him ; I had them badly 

" In the early morning of the 8th the weather moderated 
somewhat, and I decided to set sail and make for the 
African coast. I reckoned that we had drifted across 
all the steamer tracks by this time, and with the sea then 
running it would have been entirely out of the question 
to try and sail back over them again. So we steered 
south again, and made fairly good weather of it. During 
the day the wind ' backed ' to west-north-west. This did 
not make things any more comfortable ; however, we 
continued on our course. 

" During the day of the 9th the wind ' backed ' still 
more, and during the rest of the day and that night I 
was only able to make south-east instead of south course. 
However, just after midnight, I made out land to the south- 
ward, and just then the wind started to freshen consider- 
ably and sliifted to the south. Such a bad and dangerous 
short sea rose that I had to take in the sail (I had tried 
reefing it at first), and got the mast and a couple of oars 
out as a sea anchor ; such a disappointment when land 
was so near and our water so low, but there was nothing 
else for it. About 5 a.m. the wind moderated a little, 
also the sea ; so we set our sail again and started to battle 
against a nearly dead head wind ; a very hopeless job 
in a steamer's lifeboat with a ' regulation ' lug (sail). 
We slowly banged and punched on a diagonal course for 
the shore all day, and then, as we got nearer, the wind 
fell lighter and lighter, and this nasty lumpy swell still in 
evidence ! " 


Land was in sight, but could they reach it in the calm 
which had succeeded the high winds ? The men were 
exhausted owing to the successive days of exposure and 
the absence of nourishing food. It was with difficulty 
that some handled the oars, while others continued to 
bale out the water ; but at last the boat crept into a 
little bay, with houses dimly discernible in the back- 
ground. The boat was nearly swamped on two occasions, 
but at last everybody got ashore and the boat was made 
safe for the night. 

What a night of misery it proved to these unhappy 
men, after six days of indescribable suffering in their 
little boat ! Captain Groom has left us the simple but 
harrowing narrative of their experiences : 

" We slept on the sands that night, after having slaked 
our thirst with some well water and eaten a quantity 
of limpets from the rocks with our biscuits. There were 
a quantity of cave-dwellings around the bay ; but they 
were all so damp and smelly that we deemed it wiser to 
sleep in the open on the sandy beach, thinking that the 
sand would have retained some of the sun's heat. This 
conjecture proved faulty, however ; there was a chill 
dampness which struck up through the sand, and, having 
only our wet clothes to cover us, we woke up chilled 
through and through, with every bone acliing ; we slept, 
owing to the fact that it was the first opportunity we 
had had of sleeping since leaving the ship. The buildings 
we had seen from the sea proved to be long-deserted ruins, 
and there was no sign of life any^vhere. The two engineers, 
the second mate, and I kept watch by turns during the 

On the following morning, as the light was breaking, 
Captain Groom reviewed the situation — a merchant 
officer without a ship, marooned on the inhospitable shores 
of the African continent. He came to the conclusion 
that, as there was plenty of water, as well as shellfish, 
with which life could be supported, it would be unwise 
to stir until he knew exactly where he was and the direc- 
tion in which the nearest port lay, at which he could 
obtain succour for himself and his men. There was little 
or no wind, so if the boat was to be employed in a recon- 


noitring expedition it would be necessary to use the oars. 
Neither the master nor his companions, completely 
exhausted by the late ordeal, were tempted to re-embark 
with this prospect. So after breakfast Captain Groom 
set out with three men to ascertain what their surroundings 
were like, hoping that, perchance, they might discover 
some civilised human habitation. 

" It was very bad walking, sometimes rough, muddy 
ground, strewn with big stones, and hills with ankle- 
deep sand, etc. We felt it terribly owing to having been 
cramped up in the boat so long and deprived of the use 
of our legs. We plodded on until about noon without 
seeing anything that we wanted, and were just giving up 
hopes when a very tall Arab appeared. He came back 
to the camp with us. One of the firemen, a Greek, could 
speak Arabic, and when it was made known to the Arab 
what we wanted he wanted us to get into the boat then 
and there and he would pilot us to the nearest port. 
This, alas ! was impossible. When I left in the morning 
I had told the second mate to get the boat properly baled 
out, and, if possible, list her over so that the carpenter 
could make a better job of stopping the leak. He tried 
to do all this, but with all balers at work they could make 
no impression on the amount of water in the boat ; it 
came in as fast as they baled it out. The keel had evi- 
dently been set up, as the planks each side of it were 
badly broken, and entirely beyond any repair that we 
could do to them. So the project was put an end to. 
The Arab suggested that I should go with him to the 
nearest town on foot ; this I could not do, as I was 
utterly done up with the six or seven hours' walking 
that day ; but I eventually sent two Greek firemen with 
him (one spoke Italian and the other Arabic), and told 
them to try and get some boats to take us out of this as 
soon as possible." 

With the departure of these two men another chapter 
in the experiences of the remnant of the crew of the 
steamship Coquet opened. 

" That night the rest of us — fifteen — slept in one of 
the cave-dwellings with a big wood fire in the centre ; 
we had dried our clothes somewhat during the day and 


the fire helped to keep us warm during the night ; the 
floor, however, was very hard and damp. After ' break- 
fast ' we began looking out longingly for signs of a boat 
coming ; some of us had a wash in a muddy river-bed. 
I was just going off to this pool about 9,45 a.m., thinking 
to have a bathe, when we were all surprised by several 
bullets whizzing round us. On looking, we found that 
they came from two Arabs on a hill some distance inland, 
who, between shooting at us, were dancing wildly and 
laughing and yelling. Thinking they were two Arab 
boys who had got hold of rifles somehow and were just 
amusing themselves, I told our people to take cover, 
which we did in a deep trench formed by the ruins of 
some old building, right at the water's edge ; in fact the 
sea came well up in the trench at one end. I could watch 
the two Arabs from where we were, and they soon went 
away, but I thought it wise to keep down there for a bit. 
" Half an hour after that about fifteen Arabs, with rifles, 
suddenly appeared over the edge of our trench and, after 
giving a preliminary yell, began jabbering hard in Arabic 
at us. The two closest to me had their rifles all ready 
to fire. I held up my hands to indicate that I was 
unarmed ; one of them still jabbered at me, but the other 
took careful aim at my head ; I ducked forward and to 
one side a little at just about the same instant that he 
pulled the trigger, so the bullet took a track through the 
flesh across the back of my shoulders, instead of hitting 
my head. The Arab was only about six feet from me 
when he fired ; the force of the shock knocked me back- 
wards. I remember falling and my head hitting the sand. 
After that I must have lost consciousness, as when I 
awoke everything was quiet except for the groaning of 
the carpenter, who was rolling between me and the edge 
of the water, about six feet. I found he was horribly 
mutilated, but still alive. He asked me to drag him away 
from the sea ; I tried to, but he was a big man and my 
wound was very painful. A little way out in the water 
the steward was floating, face downwards ; whether he 
was shot or drowned, or both, I do not know. Farther 
up the beach the little Italian messroom boy was lying 
dead. I could see nothing of anybody else, and was 
afraid to go out of the trench, thinking that if the Bedouins 
saw me alive they would come back to finish me off." 



It must have seemed to this courageous and hardly 
tried merchant officer that he was doomed to die on this 
sandy beach, either from exposure or by the hands of 
the Arabs if they chanced to return. His sole companion 
was apparently the carpenter, to whom he gave drinks 
of water from a bucket, which they had brought to the 
trench, in the hope of alleviating his agony. At last a 
patch of smoke appeared on the horizon, and then the 
outline of a small steamer appeared and Captain Groom 
realised that help was at last to hand. The vessel was 
flying the Italian flag. She had sailed from Ania promptly 
in response to the appeals of the two Greek firemen. 
Could she arrive before the Bedouins returned ? 

" When she headed into the bay and her boat was 
coming ashore, I came out from the trench. There was 
not a sign of the Bedouins or the rest of our people, except 
a sailor named Lord, who was lying on the sand some 
distance from the trench most brutally wounded by 
both bullet and bayonet. He said that the others, ten 
of them, had been carried off as prisoners by the Bedouins, 
after having had everything of any value taken off them : 
they were taking him also, but he thinks they thought 
that he was so wounded that he would be a hindrance to 
them, and so tried to finish liim off on the spot and left 
him for dead. 

" When the boat landed, the commander of the Fort of 
Marsa Susa came ashore with a party of his Arab soldiers, 
who quickly ran to the tops of the nearest hills to look 
for the Bedouins, but they had had too long a time and 
had got out of sight. The soldiers then made a thorough 
search in the vicinity, but found no trace of the Bedouins 
or their captives. The commander of the Fort of Marsa 
Susa then took us aboard the little steamer, also the 
bodies of the steward and messroom boy, and our wounds 
were washed and bandaged as well as was possible. The 
carpenter died just as we were starting to wash his wounds." 

What had happened to the men whom the Bedouins 
had carried off ? The captors had lined up the survivors 
of the seamen, taken from them everything of value wliich 
they possessed, and then driven them off into the hills, 
using their bayonets and shouting vigorously. They 


afterwards kept these unhappy men at the jog-trot for 
about an hour until they reached a valley, where they 
found, to their satisfaction, tiny pools of water among the 
rocks. The water was very lively with little hairy, red, 
crawling " bichos," but nevertheless the tliirsty men 
were very thankful for it. After about a quarter of an 
hour's rest, the Bedouins set off again, and their prisoners 
were forced to imitate mountain goats all day until about 
9 p.m., when the party came to a few caves which were 
being used as an encampment. There their captors 
brought them before a big, fat Arab, who appeared to be 
a chief. He could speak a little French, so some sort of 
a conversation was carried on through the Greek sailor. 
When this pow-wow came to an end after midnight, 
they were given a meal, consisting of boiled goats' flesh 
and very fresh, heavy bread. This was the first food they 
had had since eating a few limpets before the Bedouins 
attacked them, 

" Early next morning, after a tiny glass of Turkish 
coffee," one of the party recorded afterwards, " we set off 
in a heavy downpour of rain, most of us on foot, but one 
of our party, who had a hole in his leg as the result of 
a bullet, was on a camel. As it was his first attempt at 
imitating a Camel Corps trooper, he was quite amusing to 
watch until he got used to the motion. I don't mean 
that he was sick or anything like that, but he was nearly 
off several times, which added to our mirth and his 
annoyance. At about noon we came to a lone tent, where 
we stopped for refreshments, which turned up at long 
last and proved to be a big, flat, round bowl of boiled 
rice, which we ate, sitting on our haunches in true Arab 
style, with our hands instead of spoons. When we had 
eaten as much of it as we could get down, which was not 
very much, as one can't eat much rice at the first sitting, 
our host threw in what appeared to be some bones with 
a little meat on them, which we sucked and gnawed at 
until there was no meat left. We learnt afterwards 
that these bones were goats' ribs." 

A fresh move was begun after a short rest, and a three- 
hours' trudge brought the party to another cave camp. 
As the Arab women were housed in the largest cave, which 


was the only one large enough to contain all the prisoners, 
they had to turn out, taking their goods and chattels with 
them. They left very comfortable sleeping-quarters, 
which the seamen were very glad to occupy, having been 
served with another meal of meat and rice. 

" This journeying went on for another few days, until 
we came to quite a large native camp, where we were kept 
in the prison tent along with other malefactors for nearly 
a week. We thought we were very badly off then, but 
we found out later that that was the best time we had in 
all our sojourn. 

" One day, the big sheikh whom we had met before 
came to us and told us that we were going to be taken 
to a big town by the sea and given clothes, boots, and all 
wearing apparel and revolvers, amongst other things, 
and were going to be sent away in a ship. We were very 
much elated, and followed him in liigh spirits for several 
days, stopping here for a meal and there for the night, 
until we fell in with a large gathering of people who 
seemed to be going on some pilgrimage. At last we 
emerged into a vast plain, with what we took to be a 
small town in the centre, to which we came, ushered in 
to the strains of martial music, including the ' British 
Grenadiers,' played by a brass band composed of Arabs, 
Turks, and Italian deserters." 

After a time the men were led before Sidi Idris, the 
legitimate head of the Senussi tribes, and through the 
interpreters he asked them if they would like to be sent 
straight home or kept to the end of the war, to which they 
made the obvious answer. Next day they set off once 
more, mounted on camels, in company with a big caravan, 
and travelled all that day and for many subsequent days, 
sometimes with the caravan and sometimes by themselves 
under guard, until they came to an abandoned block- 
house, called Sklydeema, where they remained two days 
to rest. 

" There a Turk took a fancy to my wrist-watch, which 
I had worn and kept going ever since the Coquet went down. 
He asked me what 1 wanted for it, and I told him eighty 
francs, so he gave me five to go on with. When I asked 


him for the residue, he swore he had given me the fair 
price and I never got any more for it. I learnt after- 
wards that it stopped soon after he got it, so he sold it 
to one of Sidi Idris's stewards, whom I saw wearing it 
months after, but of course it was broken and of no use 
to him. We left one of our party, a fireman, in Sklydeema, 
who was dying of tetanus, induced by a bad bullet wound 
in his arm. He died two days after we left." 

After another week's travelling these harried seamen 
came to their final lodgment at Jedabia. They arrived 
there on the evening of February 4th, exactly a month after 
they had left the sinking Coquet. 

" We were first housed in a room with four walls, a 
roof, and a concrete floor, and were quite well looked 
after for a few days. A party of Italian prisoners were 
brought in on the fourth day, and that evening we were 
all put together in a compound. Our party, comprising 
twenty-three men, were lodged in another hut facing us 
across the courtyard. Of course we got into communica- 
tion, as one of the Italians spoke French very well, and 
we could understand that. They asked us if we had 
been made to do any work, and were surprised to hear 
that we had not. Next day, however, an Arab guard 
came and took us all out to work together, and that was 
the beginning of our troubles. 

" That same evening two Italians prevailed upon our 
Greek sailor to try to escape, to which he agreed. So 
about midnight they all climbed the wall of the compound, 
which was right on the outskirts of the fortified block- 
house of Jedabia. They climbed to the top all right, 
with much puffing and blowing, and the first man to drop 
down on the other side fell on some rusty tins and rub- 
bish, making a frightful row, and we all thought that the 
whole lot would be caught, but nothing stirred, so they 
set off on foot. Of course the next day the Arabs dis- 
covered the escape, and some of them set off in pursuit 
on fast racing camels, and soon came up to the fugitives 
and brought them back. 

" Then all we prisoners, British and Italian, were 
lined up and given a lecture by the Commandant of 
Jedabia upon the evils of trying to escape. He asked 


who was the instigator of the attempt, and all the blame 
was put on the poor Greek sailor. The two Italians 
were given twenty lashes with the kurbash and the Greek 
was given fifty lashes and condemned to be chained to 
a six-foot chain pegged into the ground for two months, 
and he was also handcuffed. Whenever he wanted to 
move about, the second mate had to take a turn round his 
(the Greek's) neck with the chain and keep hold of the 
peg, and peg him up securely again when he came back. 
The Commandant also warned us that the next person 
or persons attempting to escape would, if caught, be 

" Soon after this we had to make a kind of room of 
corrugated iron at one end of a demolished barrack. 
I must mention that Jedabia was an Italian block-house, 
or fort, which the garrison had to evacuate and which they 
demolished with dynamite as far as possible before they 
did so. When we had finished our new prison, we moved 
into it, and a guard of six Arabs, under an effendi, was 
posted ; they were housed in a small species of dug-out 
right alongside the only exit from the prison yard. 

" From now on until the end of July we lived, fed, and had 
our being in this corrugated-iron room, and our duties 
became more or less regular. At sunrise the effendi 
(captain) of the guard would beat on the iron door with 
his kurbash (whip) and repeat the summons to rise and 
get to work, and we would all troop out, except the sick 
or exempted ones. Our jobs were various, but they 
all had to do with rebuilding Jedabia. Some mixed 
mortar ; others got big and little stones ; others again 
assisted the native masons and bricklayers. For a month 
or so all our food was cooked for us by Arabs belonging 
to Sidi Idris's retinue of servants, and at noon one of us 
was told to go and get the food and the rest went home. 
Our food consisted, for the most part, of boiled goats' 
meat and rice that had been boiled in the soup, which was 
very good, but there was never enough of that. After 
about two hours' siesta, we were led out again and con- 
tinued our various labours till sunset, when another meal 
was provided of the same character, after which we 
usually went to bed. Our beds consisted of grass mats 
spread over the earthen floor, with a conveniently shaped 
stone for a pillow, and our covering was a number of date 


sacks made of camel's hair, sewn together. We had to 
sleep very close together to keep warm for the first few 
months, as the nights were very cold ; in fact, it was 
always pretty chilly at night time. 

" We saw many instances of the Arab's love of pomp 
and show when any notability came into Jedabia. Sidi 
Idris came in one evening shortly after we were installed 
in our permanent prison. The whole population turned 
out to watch the procession of gorgeously dressed sheikhs, 
riding on beautifully caparisoned Arab horses, whose 
saddles and bridles had gold buckles, etc., with stirruj^s 
of gold. One morning in April we were surprised to see 
small European tents and camp equipment of green 
canvas and white men moving amongst them. We 
learnt that these were some German officers, who had just 
landed on the coast fifteen miles away from a submarine. 
On further acquaintance they proved to be very agreeable, 
and expressed much sympathy at our plight. With them 
was one Nuri Bey, brother of Enver Bey, of Turkish 
Army fame. He, so we learnt, had managed to escape 
from the English and had found his way to Jedabia. 
The Germans used to give the second mate five francs 
per week for tobacco for our party, and Nuri used to give 
the same for tea. 

" Towards the end of the Ramadan the Italians were 
all marched off to another block-house, called Jalo, which 
was eight days' journey farther to the southward, and 
where there was no permanent water supply and the con- 
ditions far worse than those at Jedabia. The day after 
their departure we did not have to go out to work, and 
Nuri Bey called us to his tent and presented us each 
with thirty francs Turkish, as, he explained, payment 
for work done for the Turkish Government. The same 
day a small parcel came through to us from the British 
Consul, which proved to contain money, cigarettes, and 
letters. Marvellous to relate, all the money and cigarettes 
came through intact, which speaks well for the power of 
Sidi Idris, who, I believe, knew that the parcel was coming. 

" The next day an Italian deserter joined our party, 
which was the signal for us to go out to work again. 
However, it was not for very long, as two nights after his 
appearance we were sent for while he slept and were 
brought before some Egyptian potentates, who said that 


we were going to be sent home the next day. Next 
evening we were each given a complete outfit of Arab 
clothes, including a burnous and tarboosh. A crowd 
of camels having been brought round to us, we each 
mounted one and set off under the escort of four niggers 
and arrived at an inhabited Italian block-house early next 
morning, where we received very kind treatment for two 
days, when we boarded a coasting steamer going to 
Bengazi. Here we were given a complete European 
outfit and entertained by the British Consul for ten days, 
when we took ship for Malta." 

And thus, in due course, these seamen, after a series of 
adventures and trials suggesting that truth is sometimes 
stranger than fiction, reached London on the morning of 
August 29th, seven months and twenty-five days from the 
sinking of the Coquet. 



The need for arming all merchant vessels in a great war 
at sea was foreseen in the year 1881 by the late Sir John 
Colomb, M.P., who had served at sea as an officer in the 
Royal Marine Artillery. In a lecture delivered at the 
Royal United Service Institution in May of that year he 

" that the exigencies of maritime war will necessitate 
our arming not merely a careful selection of the best, but 
every ocean-going British steamer. We must prepare 
in peace to give them, at home and abroad, armaments 
and trained instructors, and then on the declaration of 
war bid them follow their avocations and let our enemies 
know that we mean to carry on our sea trade ' in spite 
of their teeth,' under the banner, if you like, of ' Defence 
not Defiance.' " 

Active steps were taken by the Admiralty in 1912, as 
described in Volume I of this history, to put a similar 
policy in practice on a small scale, but the vessels supplied 
with defensive armament in time of peace carried no 
ammunition. On August 5th, 1914, the Admiralty decided 
to make arrangements to place ammunition on board, and 
informed the Foreign Office as follows : 

" In view of existing circumstances. My Lords have 
deemed it desirable to arrange for the ammunition for 
the Admiralty guns to be placed on board the ships as 
soon as opportunity offers. The names of the ships so 
supplied, with particulars as to their proposed destination 
and ports of call, will be communicated to the Secretary 
of State as soon as possible in each case. For the vessels 
so fitted, the authority to state that no ammunition is on 
board could no longer stand, but My Lords trust that in 



issuing instructions to the Diplomatic and Consular 
representatives on the point, directions may be included 
that every assistance should be afforded to the masters 
of ships so as to avoid or minimise inconvenience or delay." 

On the same date the Board of Customs and Excise 
were notified to the same effect, and asked to do every- 
thing in their power to avoid inconvenience and delay. 
Arrangements were also made for the necessary order of 
a Secretary of State for explosives to be carried in emi- 
grant ships, and the Board of Trade, in view of the fitting 
of cooled magazines to Admiralty specification, waived 
their pre-war objection to explosives being carried in 
passenger vessels. It is interesting to note that, out of 
the thousands of British merchant vessels which were 
subsequently armed without being fitted with proper 
magazines, not a single case of spontaneous combustion 
occurred amongst all the ammunition carried. 

On September 3rd, 1914, the Government decided to 
abandon running defensively armed merchant ships to 
United States ports, without in any way waiving the 
principle involved. The Admiralty accepted the Foreign 
Secretary's view that the position must be reconsidered, 
and they were prepared to concur with him that, under 
protest and without surrendering the principle of interna- 
tional law on which they had acted, H.M. Ambassador 
should be instructed to inform the United States Govern- 
ment that, under the existing conditions, defensively 
armed merchant vessels would not be employed in trading 
with United States ports. 

Between the outbreak of war and September 3rd, 
the date of the Government decision, ten large vessels, in 
addition to those already armed, had been selected by the 
Admiralty to receive defensive armament of 6-inch guns. 
These vessels were the Grampian and Scotian (Allen Line) ; 
the Montreal, Manitoba, and Montezuma (C.P.R.) ; the 
Arabic, Adriatic, and Baltic (White Star) ; and the Haver- 
ford and Merion (International Navigation Company). The 
armament of these vessels was either in place, or in pro- 
cess of being mounted, at the time, but they were then 
disarmed or work was suspended on them. Three of the 
ships armed before the war, the Idaho, Colorado, and 
Francisco, were also disarmed for the same reason. 


In January 1915 the developing menace of submarine 
attack wrought a revolution in the problem of defending 
merchant shipping at a time when the utmost pressure 
was being put on the armament firms for guns for the 
naval and military forces. On February 4th, 1915, the 
Germans issued the proclamation declaring certain waters 
to be a "war-zone," within which all merchant vessels 
would be destroyed. This action raised an imperative 
need for additional protection for British merchant ship- 
ping ; but although the proclamation modified in detail the 
problem of defensive armament, the essential principles 
were unchanged. The origin of defensive armament was 
to enable merchant ships to defend themselves from the 
attacks of enemy armed merchantmen, improvised as 
raiders. The additional danger, after the proclamation, 
arose chiefly from the fact that submarines carrying guns 
could approach without being seen and disappear at will. 
Even with a very light gun, a submarine could force an 
armed merchant ship to surrender, unless the merchant- 
man could either outstrip the enemy or could be protected 
by an armed vessel. It was still the problem of a mer- 
chant ship attacked by a lightly armed raider of a different 
description. If the merchant ship could be armed, even 
lightly, the submarine would be faced with difficulties in 
attacking an unarmed enemy with a higher and steadier 
gun-platform and better facilities for observation. The 
merchant ship, it is true, presented a larger target, but a 
single hit on the submarine stood a good chance of sinking 
her, or of making it impossible for her to dive. Another 
advantage of defensive armament was that it prevented 
the submarine from approaching to close range, and it is 
not easy at long ranges to sink a merchant vessel by light 
gunfire. For such reasons the defensive armament of 
merchant ships necessitated an increase in the size and 
weight of armament carried by the submarine, in order to 
ensure superiority. This margin could only be obtained 
at the expense of other fighting qualities of the submarine, 
such as speed. It was not until 1916, when a year's 
experience had been obtained, that all these advantages 
were fully realised. Statistics showing the rapid exten- 
sion of the policy of armament are given in the succeeding 
chapter, on training the Merchant Service to fight. 

An explanation of the Admiralty policy of extending 


the defensive armament of merchant shipping in February 
1915 was sent to shipowners in the following secret 
circular : 

" It has been decided to arm defensively vessels engaged 
in local trade, with one 12-pounder gun aft for defence 
against submarine attack. The Admiralty will pay for 
the cost of mounting the guns, providing the mazagines, 
and for any movements of the ships necessary for the work 
to be done. They will not pay any compensation for 
delay in resuming trade. 

" A gun's crew of two men will be supplied by the 
Admiralty for each gun ; these men will be paid by the 
company, the money being refunded by the Admiralty. 
The status of these ships will be the same as defen- 
sively armed merchantmen. They will not be com- 
missioned and will fly the Red Ensign. 

" About one-half of these ships will be selected from 
Admiralty chartered colliers and store-carriers running 
between east and west coasts and France. The remainder 
will be selected from local coast trades. The Admiralty 
will pay for replacement after the removal of the gun." 

When, in April 1915, a few more guns were available, 
it was decided to extend the principle of defensive arma- 
ment from vessels on coastal voyages to some of the larger 
classes of merchant ships engaged in oversea trade. A 
similar circular was then issued to shipowners, containing 
additional information about the method of transferring 
guns from one ship to another. As far as practicable, 
arrangements were made to prepare the vessels thus 
affected before they left the United Kingdom, or their 
terminal ports abroad, for receiving their guns. The 
general situation in July 1915 was that British vessels 
trading in the Mediterranean had at their disposal, at 
Gibraltar and Port Said, fifty- two guns of 4-7-inch calibre, 
which were embarked on entering the station and disem- 
barked for the use of other vessels before leaving. Guns 
of the same calibre were mounted permanently in 8 colliers, 
59 meat-carrying vessels trading with the Argentine, 
Australia, and New Zealand, and 9 supply ships and trans- 
ports carrying military stores. Twelve-pounder guns of 
12 cwt. or of 8 cwt. were mounted in coastal vessels 


trading around the coast of the United Kingdom and to 
ports in the North of France, and similar guns in collier 
transports and in transports with military stores. The 
system of armament was gradually extended, as guns and 
mountings became available by the methods subsequently 

From the outset, the instructions issued to the masters 
of defensively armed vessels contained a clause to the 
effect that the guns were placed on board for defence, not 
for offence, and that they were intended as an effective 
help in the prosecution of the voyages, the main object 
in view. 

On October 20th, 1915, the instructions were amplified. 
The defensive nature of the armament was further 
emphasised, and the following principles were laid down: 

" The Status of Armed Merchant Ships 

" (1) The right of the crew of a merchant vessel forcibly 
to resist visit and search, and to fight in self-defence, is 
well recognised in International Law, and is expressly 
admitted by the German Prize Regulations in an adden- 
dum issued in June 1914, at a time when it was known 
that numerous vessels were being armed in self-defence. 

" (2) The armament is supplied solely for the purpose 
of resisting attack by an armed vessel of the enemy. 
It must not be used for any other purpose whatsoever. 

" (3) An armed merchant vessel, therefore, must not 
in any circumstances interfere with or obstruct the free 
passage of other merchant vessels or fishing-craft, whether 
these are friendly, neutral, or hostile. 

" (4) The status of a British armed merchant vessel 
cannot be changed upon the high seas." 

" Rules to be Observed in the Exercise of the Right of 


" (1) The master or officer in command is responsible 
for opening and ceasing fire. 

" (2) Participation in armed resistance must be con- 
fined to persons acting under the orders of the master or 
officer in command. 

" (3) Before opening fire the British colours must be 


" (4) Fire must not be opened or continued from a 
vessel which has stopped, hauled down her flag, or other- 
wise indicated her intention to surrender, 

" (5) The expression ' armament ' in these instructions 
includes not only cannon, but also rifles and machine- 
guns where these are supplied. 

" (6) The ammunition used in rifles and machine-guns 
must conform to Article 23, Hague Convention IV, 1907 ; 
that is to say, the bullets must be encased in nickel or 
other hard substance, and must not be split or cut in 
such a way as to cause them to expand or set up on 
striking a man. The use of explosive bullets is forbidden. 

" Circumstances under which the Armament should he 


" (1) The armament is supplied for the purpose of 
defence only, and the object of the master should be to 
avoid action whenever possible. 

" (2) Experience has shown that hostile submarines and 
aircraft have frequently attacked merchant vessels with- 
out warning. It is important, therefore, that craft of 
this description should not be allowed to approach to a 
short range, at which a torpedo or a bomb launched 
without notice would almost certainly take effect. 

" British and Allied submarines and aircraft have 
orders not to approach merchant vessels. Consequently 
it may be presumed that any submarine or aircraft which 
deliberately approaches or pursues a merchant vessel does 
so with hostile intention. In such cases fire may be 
opened in self-defence in order to prevent the hostile 
craft closing to a range at wliich resistance to a sudden 
attack with bomb or torpedo would be impossible. 

" (3) An armed merchant vessel proceeding to render 
assistance to the crew of a vessel in distress must not 
seek action with any hostile craft, though, if she herself 
is attacked while so doing, fire may be opened in self- 

" (4) It should be remembered that the flag is no guide 
to nationality. German submarines and armed merchant 
vessels have frequently employed British, Allied, or neutral 
colours in order to approach undetected. Though, how- 
ever, the use of disguise and false colours in order to avoid 


capture is a legitimate ruse de guerre, its adoption by 
defensively armed merchant ships may easily lead to 
misconception. Such vessels, therefore, are forbidden to 
adopt any form of disguise which might cause them to be 
mistaken for neutral ships." 

These instructions were subsequently revised, amplified, 
and finally embodied in " War Instructions for Defen- 
sively Armed Merchant Ships." 

At first, owing to the urgency of the menace to mer- 
chant shipping, it was necessary to supply merchant ships 
with such guns as could be obtained. Guns of eighteen 
different types, British, French, Russian, and Japanese, 
from 6-inch to 2|-pounders, were issued in the first 
instance. This obviously led to great complications in 
ammunition supply and was a most undesirable system, 
but the only practicable one until sufficient guns of stan- 
dard types could be procured. The matter became still more 
urgent when the Germans used more heavily armoured 
submarines, carrying heavier guns of 5-9-inch calibre ; but 
it was not until September 1917 that sufficient British 
guns became available to enable the Admiralty to adopt 
a standard system of defensive armament. 

When war broke out in August 1914, the service of 
defensively armed merchant ships was in the hands of 
three officers and about twelve other ranks ; 747 officers 
and men were employed on shore duties in connection 
with defensively armed merchant ships on November 15th, 
1918, and 11,537 as guns' crews for the ships — the increase 
reflecting the lengths to which this development was 
carried under the compelling influence of war. The 
policy was originally adopted, as we have seen, as a 
defence against surface craft, in view of information 
received that the Germans intended to arm their merchant 
ships as commerce raiders in time of war. In February 
1915 the U-boat campaign was launched against merchant 
shipping. By the middle of May in that year, 149 British 
merchant ships had been fitted with defensive armament. 
By November 1918 5,887 ships had been so fitted, and 
1,684 of them had been lost, leaving a balance of 4,203. 
Of these, nearly 2,500 carried guns of 4-inch calibre or 
of larger size. By the date of the Armistice, 6,067 guns 
and 806 howitzers had been mounted in merchant ships. 


On November 16th, 1918, when the Armistice was signed, 
4,079 were afloat actually carrying armament. The follow- 
ing table shows the numbers of British merchant ships 
fitted for defensive armament that were afloat on different 
selected dates up to the end of 1915 : 

Datfr— 1915. 

No. of ships fitted 

May 14th .... 

. 149 

June 25th 

. 212 

September 24th. 

. 219 

November 6th . 

. 401 

December 25th . 

. 766 

After the frozen-meat vessels, the first ships to be armed 
defensively, as we have seen, were those engaged in coastal 
traffic, and proceeding from the Irish Channel round 
the South Coast of England to London. Very few guns 
were available at first, and only a small proportion of them 
could be spared for vessels on the East Coast, which was 
then comparatively safe. The Channel was not so danger- 
ous as it became at a later period. This was the policy 
up to the middle of May 1915, when the fitting of the 
following lines was ordered : 



P. & O. 

British India 

Anchor Brocklebank 




T. and J. Harrison. 

Blue Fimnel (Holt Line). 

Defensive armament saved a number of ships at this 
period, some by actual gunfire, some by moral effect ; 
more guns were allocated as they became available, and 
more coastal craft were armed. At first there were not 
enough guns to send overseas, so all guns, by a system 
of transfer, were kept in the submarine zone, which was 
restricted at the outset, and the guns were transferred, 
as has been already stated, from one ship to another for 
the voyage. For ocean voyages one gun was then taken 
out of each of the thirty-seven frozen-meat ships origin- 
ally armed, and transferred to others. In May 1915 
some of these guns were sent out to Gibraltar and to 
Port Said, and in the following November to Dakar, to 
be mounted for the homeward voyage and replaced 
by returning ships, and this policy was subsequently 
applied to other overseas ports : Halifax, Sierra Leone, 
and Cape Town. The thirty-seven guns were thus made 


to serve the requirements of a large number of vessels. 
In spite of certain mechanical difficulties, such as the 
designing of special deck-plates to suit both the seating 
and the gun when different natures of ordnance were being 
exchanged from one ship to another, the matter of supply- 
ing material was a comparatively simple one compared 
with training the Merchant Service to fight their ships 
and to handle the guns when attacked. The training of 
a sea-gunner in the Royal Navy in normal times occupies 
several months, and it is superimposed on a disciplinary 
training extending over many years. There was no time 
to apply such a system to merchant crews, but while 
skill in gunnery and facilities for enforcement of discipline 
were lacking in the Mercantile Marine, heroism was not 

A special system of training the Merchant Service to 
fight their own ships when encountering submarines w^as 
established by the Admiralty in 1917. In the meanwhile 
tribute must be paid to the patriotism of shipowners who, 
in pre-war days, held out inducements to their officers to 
join the Royal Naval Reserve. The fruits of their efforts 
were apparent when the time arrived for extending the 
system of arming merchant ships as the submarine 
menace developed. For many years some companies, by 
cash allowances to their officers whilst undergoing drill, 
by giving permission to serve with the Navy for long 
periods (up to two years) at a stretch without loss of 
seniority, and by affording other facilities, were able to 
boast of a large number of R.N.R. officers. In July 
1916 the Admiralty arranged for additional officers of the 
Mercantile Marine to undergo a short course of gunnery at 
the Naval Gunnery School at Chatham. 

At first a few naval ratings were lent to fight the guns 
in the few merchant ships that could be supplied with 
armament. Two gunners, the majority being pensioners 
or Royal Fleet Reserve men of the Royal Marine Artillery 
and Infantry, were sent to each ship to carry out the duties 
requiring a special gunnery training, and to assist the ship's 
crew. These men actually joined the Merchant Service 
as part of the crew, and were paid by the shipowners 
concerned, and a small inspecting and training staff was 
established to superintend matters. By statistics previ- 
ously given, we have seen that the number of defensively 
ir— 17 


armed merchant ships had risen from thirty-nine at the 
outbreak of war to 766 at the end of the year 1915 ; the 
numbers continually increased as guns became available, 
and from the following statistics it is easy to realise how 
history repeated itself, and why British merchant seamen, 
like their ancestors of old, were called upon to defend 
their own vessels from the King's enemies. The Royal 
and Merchant Navies, which had drifted apart during 
many years of peace on the high seas, were again knit 
together by the bond of defence against a common danger. 
The figures appended give the number of British merchant 
vessels afloat, fitted with defensive armament, on certain 
selected dates up to September 1916 : 

Date — 1916. No. of defensively armed 

ships afloat. 

Febniary 15th. . . . . .991 

April 12th 1,109 

September 18th 1,749 

Apart from the question of gun armament, shipowners 
were recommended by the Admiralty from the earliest days 
of the war to provide their vessels with rifles for use 
against aircraft and submarines, and for the purpose of 
sinking any mines that might be sighted. Pistols were 
also recommended for use in emergencies. Special instruc- 
tions bearing on this point were issued on April 26th, 
1915. The right, under International Law, of resistance 
and of fighting in self-defence was explained in these 
instructions, which contained, amongst others, the follow- 
ing clauses : 

" Participation in armed resistance should be confined 
to persons acting under the orders of the master or officer 
in command. . , . 

" The ammunition supplied for rifles and machine- 
guns must conform to the requirements of Article 23, 
Hague Convention IV, 1907, that is to say, the bullets 
must be cased in nickel or other hard substance, and must 
not be split or cut in such a way as to cause them to 
expand or set up on striking a man. . . . 

" Masters of ships to which rifles are issued must exer- 
cise a proper control over their employment, and are 
responsible for opening and ceasing fire. Fire must not 


be opened from a vessel which has stopped, hauled down 
her flag, or otherwise indicated to the submarine her 
intention to surrender." 

Other clauses of a general nature were similar in the 
instructions, specially issued on April 26th, 1915, for the 
use of small arms, to those issued on October 20th of the 
same year for defensive armament in general, as quoted 
in extenso above. 

On May 31st, 1915, a special memorandum was issued 
to.masters of transports carrying troops. This memorandum 
pointed out that heavy rifle or machine-gun fire would 
make it more difficult for a submarine to make a successful 
shot with a torpedo. If submerged, no injury would be 
done to her, but a good volume of fire falling just short 
of the periscope would make splashes, thus hampering an 
observer on board the submarine in seeing clearly through 
his periscope. It was enjoined that military officers should 
be in command of the men to control both rifle and 
machine-gun fire, and a military officer on watch should 
be in command of the troops on deck, but he should not 
order fire to be opened upon a hostile submarine or torpedo 
vessel without the previous assent of the master or his 
representative — the ship's officer of the watch. The use 
of field-guns was not recommended. 

Such were the main features of the policy adopted up 
to the end of 1916 for employing guns, small arms, and 
machine-guns to enable British merchant ships to defend 
themselves from attack. They were supplemented, about 
the middle of 1916, by the supply of apparatus for the 
manufacture of smoke-screens to be used as an aid to 
escape. There remains the important question of the 
attitude of neutrals, without whose concurrence in the 
use of their harbours by defensively armed merchant 
shipping this policy would have lost much of its effect. 

The right of merchant ships to carry defensive armament 
on the high seas is one of long standing, and this right 
has been admitted by the jurists of all nations. The 
subject is discussed exhaustively in a pamphlet entitled 
Defensively Armed Merchant Ships and Submarine Warfare. 
Owing, however, to difficulties raised by certain neutral 
countries to the entry of armed merchant ships into their 
ports, the Admiralty found it desirable to issue a special 


form of indemnification to owners of the defensively 
armed vessels, reading as follows : 

" I am commanded by My Lords of the Admiralty 
to inform you that in consideration of your having, as 

arranged, fitted guns and mountings in your s.s. , 

and of your carrying ammunition supplied by the Admir- 
alty for the service of the same, for the purpose of providing 
for her defence in case of war, My Lords will keep you 
indemnified against all loss and expense by reason thereof 
to which you may be put." 

Between August 7th and 11th, 1914, telegrams were 
sent to H.M. representatives at all the capitals in Europe 
and in North and South America directing them to point 
out, in the event of any question being raised as to the 
position of British armed merchantmen, that these vessels 
were armed solely for defence and could not be converted 
into warships on the high seas, because Great Britain did 
not admit the right of any Power to do this. Therefore, 
there could be no right on the part of any neutral Govern- 
ment to intern British armed merchantmen or to require 
them to land their guns, seeing that the neutral Govern- 
ment's duty in regard to belligerent vessels is limited 
solely to actual or potential warships. 

The United States, on August 8th, 1914, issued instruc- 
tions about the clearance of merchant ships belonging to 
belligerent Powers, but these instructions made no special 
mention of defensively armed ships. On August 21st 
the State Department intimated that each case would be 
dealt with on its merits, and that it would be a great 
help if the British Minister would give a written guarantee 
that these vessels were armed only in self-defence, and 
would never attack. This was agreed to. On September 1st 
a difficulty arose over the s.s. Adriatic, w^hich was armed 
at the time with four guns, and was incorrectly believed 
to be proceeding to Halifax for troops ; as well as over the 
s.s. Merion, which arrived at Philadelphia mounting four 
guns. The action taken on September 3rd by the British 
Government as a result, and its influence upon the defensive 
armament of British merchant shipping, have already 
been described. On September 19th, 1915, the United 
States Government issued detailed conditions governing 


the treatment of defensively armed merchant ships, the 
main purpose of which was to assimilate them completely 
to ordinary merchant vessels. Should any doubt arise as 
to the defensive character of the armament, the onus 
proba7idi was to fall on the masters and owners. 

A considerable number of vessels, under these regula- 
tions, cleared from New York with their guns mounted 
aft, but in August 1915 the s.s. Waimana was held up 
at Newport News. She had been chartered for two 
voyages from the River Plate to Marseilles with meat 
and general cargo. One voyage had been completed, 
and she was proceeding from Marseilles to Buenos Aires 
on the second voyage via Newport News for coaling 
purposes. Her speed was moderate, and she was a 
trading vessel with only defensive armament of one 
4-7-inch gun, which had been fitted in her in London 
in April 1915, Two naval ratings were included in her 
crew. She arrived at Newport News at 8 a.m. on August 
26th, was ready to proceed after bunkering at noon on 
August 28th, but was detained by the action of the United 
States Government until September 22nd, and clearance 
was not given until her gun had been landed. 

On March 25th, 1916, the United States Government 
published a further memorandum on the status of armed 
merchant vessels, considering the subject from two points 
of view : firstly, from that of a neutral when such vessels 
enter his ports ; secondly, from the point of view of an 
enemy when they are on the high seas. The following 
summary was attached : 

" The status of an armed merchant vessel as a warship 
in neutral waters may be determined, in the absence of 
documentary proof or conclusive evidence of previous 
aggressive conduct, by presumption derived from all the 
circumstances of the case. 

" The status of such vessel as a warship on the high 
seas must be determined only by conclusive evidence of 
aggressive purpose, in the absence of which it is to be 
presumed that the vessel has a private and peaceable 
character, and it should be so treated by an enemy warship. 

" In brief, a neutral Government may proceed upon the 
presumption that an armed merchant ship of belligerent 


nationality is armed for aggression, while a belligerent 
should proceed on the assumption that the vessel is 
armed for protection. Both of these presumptions may 
be overcome by evidence : the first by secondary or col- 
lateral evidence, since the fact to be established is negative 
in character ; the second by primary and direct evidence, 
since the fact to be established is positive in character." 

In the course of the memorandum it was clearly laid 
down as a principle that merchantmen of belligerent 
nationality, armed only for the purposes of protection 
against the enemy, were entitled to enter and leave 
neutral ports without hindrance in the course of legitimate 
trade, and that, as affecting the high seas, "• Enemy 
merchant ships have the right to arm for purposes of 
self-protection." ^ 

Holland, from the outset, refused to admit such vessels 
to her ports, and this attitude was maintained until the 
Armistice was signed in November 1918, although it was 
pointed out that all other Governments were admitting 
ships so armed to their ports on the same footing as 
ordinary merchant ships. 

Spain at an early stage admitted that merchant ships 
might carry guns without acquiring the character of ships 
of war, but nevertheless the Spanish Government raised 
difficulties from time to time. On May 31st, 1915, how- 
ever, they issued a Decree requiring the master of an armed 
merchant ship to declare in writing that his vessel was 
destined exclusively for commerce, that she would not 
be transformed into a ship of war before returning to her 
own country, and that the arms and ammunition on board 
had been, and would be, employed only for the defence 
of the vessel if attacked. This arrangement was adhered 
to throughout the war, each difficulty as it arose being 
made the subject of diplomatic correspondence. 

In Norway a working arrangement was come to. Armed 
ships did not visit her ports at first, but by 1916 it became 
necessary to reconsider the position in view of the increased 
activity of German submarines and the extended arming 
of the Merchant Service.* 

^ Revised regxilations were issued when the United States entered the war. 
* The new arrangement was not put into writing until November 1916, 
and more exhaustively in 1918. 


Other European countries made no objection, but 
some of the South American RepubHcs raised difficulties. 
Uruguay, on August 7th, 1914, issued a decree which 
was considered satisfactory. Peru was not approached 
on the subject until later (May 1917). Chile made no 
objections, but in 1915 required the arrival of a defensively 
armed merchant ship to be notified beforehand to the 
Chilian Government. (This was cancelled in November 
1918.) The Argentine Republic ordered defensively armed 
vessels to discharge ammunition before entering Buenos 
Aires or La Plata, and no armed merchantman was 
permitted to leave port within twenty-four hours of an 
enemy merchantman. (Even in normal times no mer- 
chant vessel was allowed to enter any Argentine port 
with ammunition on board.) Brazil, on September 5th, 
1914, while not regarding armed merchant ships as priva- 
teers, saw certain objections, and suggested that the 
vast naval power of Great Britain could find other means 
of protecting her Mercantile Marine. Cuba, in April 
1916, issued a special decree on the subject, much on the 
lines of the United States conditions of September 19th, 

Such, in brief terms, were the measures taken by the 
Admiralty, up to the middle of 1916, to arm the Merchant 
Service for self-protection, and the steps taken by the 
British Government to ensure that vessels so protected 
would be able to proceed upon their lawful occasions 
with the necessary access to neutral harbours. The 
effect upon the Mercantile Marine itself was conspicuous. 
The line of demarcation between the Royal Navy and the 
Merchant Service was more closely marked on the eve 
of the war than at any previous date in our naval history. 
Each had its own functions to perform, and each performed 
them in its own way. That the two services would, or 
indeed could, co-operate closely in defeating the enemy 
at sea had not been seriously regarded by either. The 
masters and other officers of the Mercantile Marine, 
excepting those who belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve, 
would most certainly have resented any suggestion that 
they should pass under the tutelage of officers whom they 
regarded as belonging to an entirely distinct organisation, 

^ A brief memorandum of the attitude and requirements of various 
neutral countries was subsequently issued by the Admiralty. 


with which merchant seamen had Httle concern. The 
officers of the Royal Navy, on the other hand, never 
contemplated in pre-war days the possibility of instructing 
their brethren of the Merchant Service in the best methods 
of defeating the enemy for themselves. Owing to the 
policy of supplying defensive armament to merchant 
ships, the relationship underwent a change under the 
influence of war conditions. The old barriers which had 
arisen during the long period of peace were gradually 
broken down, and naval and merchant seamen, with a new 
sympathy for each other, worked whole-heartedly together 
in the common cause. Without such a sentiment inspiring 
both services, little success could have attended the various 
courses which were first contemplated in 1916, established 
in 1917, and constantly developed in usefulness and 
interest until the conclusion of the war. The nation can 
contemplate with pride the splendid manner in which the 
officers and men of the British Merchant Service, old men 
well advanced in years as well as young men, strained 
every effort to fit themselves to meet the new and unex- 
pected conditions with which they were confronted. 



The relation of Zecbrugge to the Dover Straits resembled 
strategically, as has been stated, that which Cattaro bore 
to the Straits of Otranto. Happily during the war the 
enemy never succeeded in capturing the Channel ports, 
but it was sufficiently embarrassing that Zecbrugge and 
Ostend remained for practically the whole of the period 
of hostilities in German hands. Zecbrugge became an 
important base for U-craft from the spring of 1915 
onward. With the introduction of the smaller types of 
submarines, designated UB and UC, increasingly effec- 
tive use could be made of the Belgian port. The latter 
were mine-layers, and from the beginning of June they 
carried on an almost continuous policy of laying mines 
off the south-eastern coast of England, selecting well- 
known lightships, prominent headlands, narrow channels, 
and certain navigational buoys for their operations. In 
the course of the early summer, however, the Dover 
drifters had enforced such a measure of respect on the 
enemy that submarines were forbidden to attempt the 
Dover Straits passage. The more valuable U-boats especi- 
ally were directed to go north-about into the Atlantic, 
usually through the Fair Island Channel. 

The constriction from which the enemy was suffering 
was so severely felt that on August 20th another effort 
was made to break tlirough Dover Straits, The sub- 
marine selected was the mine-laver UC5, which had 
reached Zecbrugge from Germany on July 27th and then 
commenced a series of mine-laying voyages to the south- 
east coast of England. Eventually, on April 27th, 1916, 
she got ashore on the Shipwash and was captured ; but 
that is anticipating events. On August 20th, 1915, at 



6.40 a.m., she left Bruges, having taken on board her 
cargo of mines, and proceeded through Zeebrugge lock, 
thence passing down the Belgian coast. At 10.20 p.m., at 
her utmost speed, she crossed the Dover net barrage by 
No. 3 buoy, on the surface, and laid a dozen mines at 
6.30 a.m. next day off Boulogne. The Germans in 
Flanders regarded this as the first actual submarine success 
beyond the Dover-Calais line. Up to this date no German 
mine -layer had been able to penetrate the Straits. The 
immediate result was that the s.s. William Dawson got on 
these mines and blew up. 

Had the Germans not been in occupation of the Flemish 
coast, much of our trouble with submarines would have 
never existed. Many plans, much effort, a large fleet of 
various types of ships (especially Auxiliary Patrol craft), 
and many valuable officers and men were used to check- 
mate the enemy's operations from these ports, and it could 
never be said that the door had been effectually closed, 
shutting in the U-boats there. Two days after UC5 had 
negotiated Dover Straits, Vice- Admiral Bacon left Dover 
with a force of seventy-nine ships to attack the harbours 
and defences of Zeebrugge. In this operation were in- 
cluded such different types as monitors, destroyers, and 
gunboats, as well as an aeroplane ship, four vessels carrying 
observation towers for spotting, nine paddle-steamers and 
many drifters. 

The monitors were the bombarding force, the paddlers 
acted as the mine-sweepers, and the drifters laid their nets 
round the monitors as a protection against submarine at- 
tack. Four of the paddlers, including the Brighton Queen, 
were drawn from Grimsby ; they met Admiral Bacon's 
fleet off the Galloper Lightship, took station ahead and 
began sweeping from five miles south-east of North Hinder 
Lightship to one mile south-west of Thornton Ridge. 
Two of the observation towers w^ere dropped five miles 
N. by W. and the other two six miles north-north-east 
respectively off Zeebrugge pier. The five paddlers from 
Dover swept ahead of the eastern ships, and the Grimsby 
paddlers swept ahead of the western ships. When the 
observation towers had been placed in position and the 
sweepers were in the middle of turning, the enemy batteries 
opened fire and continued a fusillade for fifteen minutes. 
No damage was done to any of the British ships, but three 


of the Grimsby paddlers had narrow escapes, then' kites 
being shot away. 

All the sweepers then swept round the monitors inside 
the drift nets until 9 a.m., when course was shaped 
for the North Hinder Lightship, the paddlers again 
sweeping ahead of the fleet. These four Grimsby paddlers 
performed most useful work in sweeping and piloting 
the observation ships into prearranged positions, and 
received about a dozen salvoes, several of which strad- 
dled the sweepers. The drifters, to the number of about 
fifty, formed a kind of " zareba " round the monitors 
and enabled the latter to bombard Zeebrugge from 5.30 
a.m. for two and a half hours at 16,000 yards, the scheme 
being to destroy, if possible, both lockgates and submarine 
base. Soon after 8 a.m., all the objectives aimed at 
having been either damaged or destroyed, the operation 
ended and the fleet returned to their bases. 

On this occasion the Flanders submarines did not attack 
any vessel of the British force, probably because the enemy 
feared a landing was about to take place and, therefore, 
was keeping back his UB boats till a later stage in the 
proceedings. From the middle of August they were much 
used by the Germans as advance patrols off the Flanders 
coast owing to the disturbing effect which Admiral Bacon's 
continual bombardment was having on the Teuton nerves. 
To thwart our monitors, the UC boats had to be content 
to confine themselves to mining the narrow passages 
between the banks off the Belgian and French coasts. 

On September 6th the Admiral again took his ships 
over to the Flemish coast. At 11.30 p.m., having reached 
the appointed position, sweeping operations began and 
went on throughout the night until five in the morning. 
Misty weather interfered with the scheme, but at 8 a.m. 
the paddlers from Grimsby proceeded ahead of the fleet to 
the anchorage whence the bombardment was to take place. 
What work for ordinary fishermen ! At noon the paddlers 
were attacked by enemy aircraft, two bombs dropping 
close to the starboard sponson of one of the vessels. An 
hour later the fleet weighed again, and proceeded to an 
area off Ostend, the paddlers sweeping ahead and being 
subjected to heavy fire from guns of large calibre ; two 
shells fell close under the counter of one paddler, severely 
jarring the ship. After not quite an hour, the fleet ceased 


firing and shaped a course for the North Foreland, the 
paddlers sweeping ahead of them once more. Again the 
monitors had damaged the submarine workshops and 
harbour works, and again it was reported that " the assist- 
ance rendered by the auxihary craft was most valuable." 
But almost simultaneously UC5 had been at work. At 
6.48 a.m. on September 7th she had laid half a dozen mines 
off Boulogne and another six that night off the " Folke- 
stone Gate," which was used to regulate the traffic passing 
off that part of the coast. As a result the cable-ship 
Monarch next day was blown up and sunk. Here, as 
usual, the armed trawlers were on the spot to do their 
duty, and by this means seventy-five survivors were 
brought into Dover. Assisted by the trawler Neptunian, 
Lieutenant Alfred H. Barnes, R.N.R., commanding officer 
of the trawler Macfarlane, did excellent work in rescuing 
the Monarch'' s crew by his coolness and good organisation. 
The result of Admiral Bacon's attacks on the Flemish 
coast was, as has since become known from German sources, 
that UB boats had to be kept as permanent outposts by 
Middelkerke and the Thornton Ridge buoy. In this way 
the UB boats were prevented from operating on the 
merchant shipping tracks and the enemy had to rely on 
his mine-laying UC boats. At the end of September 
severe I attacks on the UBs and UCs, both outgoing and 
homecoming, were made by British craft, one boat of 
each type being damaged. On September 25th Admiral 
Bacon again bombarded the enemy's coast, the object 
being to feign a landing and thereby aid Sir John French, 
who was about to launch an attack on land farther to the 
southward. Once more the Auxiliary Patrol craft did 
their share of the work. The monitors bombarded Knocke, 
Heyst, Zeebrugge, and Blankenberghe, during which 
operations drifters used their nets. It was while the 
drifters were boarding their nets later on that the Hyacinth 
was shelled, fifteen 6-inch projectiles falling so close that 
they deluged the drifter with water. Notwithstanding 
this. Skipper Laurence Scarlett, ably assisted by his 
second hand, T. J. Prior, and the crew, stuck to the 
work and safely got all the nets and net-mines aboard 
before leaving. " I would submit," wrote Admiral Bacon 
to the Admiralty, " that this skipper's work is worthy of 
the best traditions of the sea service, more especially as 


his instructions admitted of his sHpping his nets and re- 
tiring without them." This gallant skipper was awarded 
a D.S.C. and Prior received a D.S.M. 

During the winter it was not possible to do much off the 
Belgian coast owing to unfavourable weather conditions, 
but operations were resumed in the following April. The 
total number of vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol serving in 
the various areas and zones at sea had reached 2,236, and 
included yachts, whalers, trawlers, drifters, paddlers, 
" M.L.s," motor-drifters, and motor-boats. Of the craft 
a considerable proportion were based on Dover, where 
during the winter Admiral Bacon had been making elabo- 
rate plans for a new effort to checkmate the enemy's 
Flemish submarine flotilla, and his other craft. These 
plans began to be put into effect on April 24th, 1916, so 
as to restrict the movements of the Flemish naval forces 
to one small channel off West Capelle on the Dutch coast. 
Thus, instead of having to keep watch on the whole coast, 
the egress and ingress of submarines and other vessels 
could be checked at this one " gate." To the enemy 
these measures, it was assumed, would be inconvenient 
in that 120 miles would be added to the length of a sub- 
marine's round trip from Ostend to the English Channel. 
The barrage, it was realised, would need to be patrolled 
so as to prevent the enemy from damaging the line of nets, 
or attacking the drifters who would have to keep the 
nets in good condition, but that responsibility was ac- 

The mine-nets, then, were to be laid so as to restrict the 
activities of enemy craft, British destroyers protecting the 
drifters and their nets. But the enemy's destroyers had 
a gun-range of 2,000 yards' superiority over that of the 
British destroyers, mounting 4-inch guns. In these cir- 
cumstances it was decided to station monitors with a view 
to their engaging the enemy's destroyers and acting as 
a rallying-point for the British destroyers. It was recog- 
nised that the enemy destroyers could always retreat 
under the protection of the coast batteries ashore. This 
would not matter, however, as the purpose in view was 
the preservation of the barrage. There was, of course, 
the possibility of the enemy's destroyers trying to rush 
the monitors, but the British destroyers were charged 
with the duty of preventing this as well as warding off 


attacks by submarines. Later on " M.L.s " and coastal 
motor-boats were also used for patrolling the barrage. 

It would have been incorrect to call this arrangement a 
blockade for the reason that it was not technically effective. 
The absence of a perpetual night patrol and the existence 
of an exit by Dutch territorial waters made it not impossible 
for enemy craft to emerge from Zeebrugge. That the 
barrage accomplished all that was hoped cannot, with 
the knowledge which has since become available, be 
claimed. This much, however, may be said. It caused 
the enemy to be on the qui vive all the time, interfered 
with his free navigation, and definitely brought about the 
loss of several submarines. On the other hand, it em- 
ployed scores of ships, with their crews numbering hundreds 
of men, which might have been employed in more active 
operations. The net-line was examined daily, weather 
permitting, and whenever possible the 15-inch monitors 
fired a few rounds at Ostend and Zeebrugge. Our patrols 
were ordered to keep outside the range of 18,000 yards ; the 
shooting of the shore batteries was excellent up to a much 
greater range. M.L.s were used to make smoke screens 
with which to hide the targets. The shore batteries, in 
turn, used smoke screens to hide themselves from the 
monitors. The conditions were those of an elaborately 
staged game of hide-and-seek in which the fishermen stood 
to suffer most. 

It had been intended to lay this barrage on April 8th, 
but the scheme had to be postponed until April 24th. 
The plan of the barrage involved the use of mines and net- 
mines. The mines were to be laid by the mine -layers 
Orvieto, Paris, Princess Margaret, and Biarritz, all being 
merchant ships taken up for the period of hostilities. 
The eastern end of the line of mines was to be laid by the 
trawlers Welheck, Carmania, Osta, Shackleton, Ostrich, and 
Russell, which could go into the shoal water which was 
impossible for the bigger mine-layers and could advance 
to within four miles of Dutch territorial waters. To 
seaward of, and covering, the line of mines, the drifters 
laid their explosive nets, while farther to seaward, still 
other drifters had been ordered to lay their nets parallel 
with the West Hinder shoal, about thirty miles from 
Ostend, in order to catch home-coming U-boats. The 
last-mentioned were indicator nets, and were not part of 


the barrage, which was laid 27,000 yards from the Tirpitz 
batteries at Ostend. These batteries straddled the 
monitor General Wolfe at 32,000 yards on the very 
day the barrage began to be laid, an incident wliich conveys 
some idea of the dangers which were run by the men 
engaged on the barrage. 

The preliminaries began on April 21st, when paddlers 
swept the channel between the Dyck and Inner Ratel, 
as well as other channels, on the eve of a startling move. 
This precaution was adopted because it was expected that 
an enemy mine-layer had been at work : six German mines 
were thus accounted for. To assist the navigation of the 
mine-layers, dan buoys were laid by drifters and M.L.s. 
The bigger mine-layers which have been mentioned laid 
their 1,421 mines in the line planned, beginning at 5 a.m., 
April 24th ; they steamed at 14 knots in a smooth sea. 
At 10.30 a.m. the six trawlers began to lay their mines 
at 6 knots, each trawler laying twenty-four. During the 
month of May these ex-merchantmen and trawlers pro- 
longed the western end of the double line of mines laid on 
this day, and filled in the gaps between the shoals south- 
ward to the Belgian coast off Furnes. The general effect 
was thus to make a barrage from La Panne to the Dutch 
waters. It was a great undertaking — daring and original 
— but it required a great deal of constant attention to 
maintain it in an efficient state. The weather was not 
helpful in this respect, and there was always the possibility 
of the enemy coming out and tampering with nets or net- 
mines, so that constant vigilance had to be observed. 

Two submarines, UBS and UlO, were destroyed by this 
means, in addition to UC5, which was caught in a mine 
but extricated herself. The loss of UBS was solely and 
entirely due to the drifters. On April 24th, Sir Reginald 
Bacon had placed a number of drifters about thirty miles 
off Ostend, parallel with the West Hinder shoal. Here 
they anchored with their indicator nets out, flanking the 
lines of mines and mine-nets which were being laid a little 
nearer the shore, the intention being to entrap any Flanders 
submarines that might be making for Ostend or Zeebrugge. 
At 2.51 p.m. the drifter Gleaner of the Sea was lying at 
anchor in lat. 51° 31' N., long. 2° 50' 20" E., with her nets 
out astern. To the north-east and south-west of her 
were other drifters similarly disposed, the whole line 


extending about fourteen miles. At this precise moment 
UBS endeavoured to get through the Hne, but fouled the 
cable of the Gleaner of the Sea, which was riding to fifteen 
fathoms of chain with twenty-five fathoms of wire shackled 
on, as drifters often did, the water at this spot being about 
ten fathoms. Suddenly the watch on deck heard an 
unusual noise — the sound of something grinding on the 
wire, and at once went forward to see what was the matter. 

Then UBS was observed on the wire. Skipper R. G. 
Hurren was called from below and rushed up on deck. 
He seized a lance-bomb and threw it on the foredeck of 
the submarine, causing a great explosion, the water flying 
over the drifter's deck forward. The submarine sank at 
once down the wire, which parted, and then she went to 
the bottom, a hole having been blown in her. Skipper 
Hurren immediately ordered " Full speed ahead " and 
fired a signal rocket, his idea being to tow his nets round 
the spot where the submarine had sunk, and thus imprison 
her. But on looking astern and seeing a large " boil of 
water," he thought UBS was coming up to the surface. 
He therefore ordered the nets to be slipped, as he was 
going to ram the enemy. On steering over the spot it 
was obvious that the German had settled down, and that 
air was coming up. He therefore dropped another lance- 
bomb and marked the place with a dan buoy. 

Presently the drifter E.E.S. (Lieutenant R. J. Har- 
land, R.N.R.) arrived and dropped four more bombs, 
one of which exploded. After the explosion oil and 
bubbles came to the surface. At 3.55 p.m. Destroyer 
Afridi arrived on the scene and fired her explosive sweep 
over the spot where the oil was still coming up. Thus 
ended the life of another submarine, thanks to the Auxiliary 
Patrol. The Admiralty awarded Skipper Hurren a D.S.C., 
and a D.S.M. was given to one of his crew. The sum of 
£1,000 was also awarded to the fishermen, of which a 
special share was apportioned to Skipper Hurren for his 
prompt action. This share amounted to £389. 

In addition to the actual destruction of one submarine, 
the day's operations had been successful, for a double 
line of mines fifteen miles long had been laid, and 
thirteen and a half miles of moored nets besides fourteen 
light buoys which were to define the barrage for the safety 
of the craft ordered on patrol during the ensuing months. 


This Belgian barrage was completed later on. If the 
officers and men who had been employed in laying and 
maintaining the barrage required encouragement, they 
obtained it from the destruction of UlO. A fleet of mine- 
nets had been laid by drifters on May 7th, 1916, reinforcing 
this barrage line in a position due north of Ostend. There 
they remained until July 15th, when the drifters were 
sent to replace them with new ones. While the original 
mines were being hauled aboard, the eighth net was found 
to be missing, the mines in it having been fired. It was 
evident that a submarine had tried to break through, 
fouled the net, and been blown up by the net-mines. As 
the drifter's crew went on hauling the remaining nets, 
there came to the surface the body of a German petty 
officer, dressed in a double-breasted coat with white 
metal buttons. He was a naval telegraphist. Together 
with the body were found the man's pass issued by the 
harbour-master at Bruges, his identity disk, and so on. 
The name of the man was thus discovered. Three days 
after this the German naval casualty list of July 18th 
contained the name of this man as well as twenty-nine 
others as " missing, probably dead." It is now known 
that this submarine was UlO, though it is impossible to 
say on which of the days between May 7th and July 15th 
she actually succumbed to the drifter's nets. 

By May 26th the whole of this barrage had been 
laid. Thirty little drifters, most of them built of wood 
and able to steam not more than 8 knots, or 9 at their 
very best, had gone shooting and repairing these nets 
within fifteen miles of the enemy's coast with its powerful 
batteries. It was a great achievement, and one which 
exactly suited the training and temperament of these 
fishermen. Losses, of course, there were, both this year 
and during the preceding autumn. Having regard to the 
proximity of the enemy's naval forces, his well-placed 
shore guns, and his mines, this was to be expected ; the 
surprising part is that so few ships were lost. On the 
occasion of the bombardment of September 25th, 1915, 
already referred to, the armed yacht Sanda was struck by 
gunfire and sunk with the loss of four officers and eleven 
men. Her crew belonged to the Mercantile Service, but 
her captain was Lieutenant-Commander H. T. Gartside- 
Tipping, R.N., who had been retired from active service in 



the Navy many years before the opening of the war. In 
his retirement he had shown an enthusiastic interest in 
the Royal National Lifeboat service. On the outbreak 
of war he had come back to sea, in spite of his advanced 
years, and served in the Auxiliary Patrol in command of 
this yacht, being the oldest naval officer afloat. Thus 
perished a very gallant and patriotic gentleman. 

The operations off the Belgian coast for 1915 had ended 
on November 19th. In summing up what had been 
accomplished, Admiral Bacon remarked : 

"... But more remarkable still, in my opinion, is the 
aptitude shown by the officers and crews of the drifters and 
trawlers, who in difficult waters, under conditions totally 
strange to them, have maintained their allotted stations 
without a single accident. Moreover, these men under 
fire have exhibited a coolness well worthy of the personnel 
of a service inured by discipline. The results show how 
deeply sea adaptability is ingrained in the seafaring race 
of these islands. . . . The mine-sweepers under Commander 
W. G. Rigg, R.N., have indefatigably carried out their 
dangerous duties." 

Such was the verdict upon the part taken by the fisher- 
men in the 1915 campaign. We had lost, unfortunately, 
the paddler Brighton Queen. At two in the morning of 
October 6th, 1915, when mine -sweeping off Nieuport, she 
was about to head for Dunkirk when she struck a mine 
which exploded under her paddle-box. Boats were at 
once lowered from all the other ships, but seven lives were 
lost. Mine-sweeping during the hours of darkness always 
proved an intensely nerve -wracking and perilous operation. 
On different occasions long-distance torpedoes were fired 
at these paddlers while sweeping, and on this particular 
night several star-shells were discharged from the shore, 
brilliantly lighting up the ships and rendering them easily 
recognisable targets. 

The loss of the Brighton Queen was a matter of peculiar 
regret. This excursion steamer had been the first paddler 
to be taken up in September 1914, and had during the 
following months assisted in the destruction of mines 
whose total value was much greater than her own. She 
had been the means of saving a considerable amount of 


shipping as well as many lives, and had been most busily- 
employed in many parts of the North Sea — wherever, 
indeed, a new mine-field had to be swept up. As the 
Admiral in charge of the mine-sweepers remarked : " With 
mine below and bombs from above, in addition to torpedoes 
from submarines and heavy gunfire from the shore, these 
sweepers have so far borne somewhat of a charmed life 
which could hardly be expected to continue indefinitely." 
The Brighton Queen was called upon to pay the price. 

In the laying of the barrage on April 24th, 1916, one 
drifter was also lost. A division of these craft, under 
Lieutenant Crafter, R.N.R., had been engaged laying their 
mine-nets at the eastern end of the line so as to catch 
any submarines which might try to work round the flank 
of the light buoys and attack the forces operating. The 
division consisted of eight drifters which, owing to a 
mistake, were left during the night at the far end of the 
line without support. The result was that they had to 
steam forty-five miles down a hostile coast to Dunkirk. 
During this passage they were chased by three German 
destroyers. One of the drifters, the Au Fait, was severely 
damaged by shell-fire and was captured, the crew being 
taken prisoners. The drifter Clover Bank, whilst laying 
nets on the same day, ran over some of the mines which 
had just been laid, and was blown up. A mistake had 
been made, for the nets should have been laid half a mile 
seaward of the lines of mines. 

The Belgian coast barrage was maintained until the bad 
weather set in during October 1916. In the meantime it 
had been reinforced by mine-fields and mine-nets. It 
had been patrolled except when weather conditions were 
unfavourable ; but notwithstanding it was a great incon- 
venience to the enemy, it had not assisted the Allied 
cause very materially. Admiral Bacon realised this, and in 
his appreciation of the situation informed the Admiralty : 

" The situation on the Belgian coast can be summed 
up briefly by saying that we can do no real good from 
the sea until backed up by an advance on land ... no 
permanent damage can be done by gunfire ; it can only 
be looked on as a preparation to assist a force which will 
permanently occupy the damaged positions." 

This lesson in strategy had been expounded years 


before the war, and the difficulty as perceived afresh off 
the Belgian coast was identically that which made of no 
avail the work of our naval forces at the Dardanelles. 
It is appropriate to add that it had been realised, as soon 
as the enemy captured the Belgian coastline, that the 
eventual success of any naval operations depended on the 
co-operation of the Army. Unfortunately the Army was 
not free to take its share in the work, and so the auxiliary 
craft, in association with the vessels of the Dover Patrol, 
had to do as best they might under adverse conditions. 
" The drifters," Admiral Bacon remarked, " have laid out, 
weighed, and dealt with the moored nets off the enemy's 
coast partially under the range of their batteries, and have 
watched the nets under conditions when it was possible to 
afford them little support, but their duties have always 
been well and promptly carried out." 

From October 1916 the barrage remained unpatrolled ; 
the nets were left to look after themselves ; and the enemy 
could, and doubtless did, interfere with it and make gaps 
for his submarines to pass tlirough. It was not until the 
summer of 1917 that it was once more rendered efficient. 
To criticise this campaign off the Flemish coast would be 
e£,sy enough, and in the light of later study of the plans 
and operations there are lessons to be learned and faults 
to be avoided. But the situation was a difficult one and 
the general outlook was none too hopeful. The Allied 
armies could not advance along the coast, and therefore the 
defended base of the enemy submarines could not be 
destroyed. Even if the barrage had been made of solid 
concrete instead of more or less frail nets, the submarines 
could never have been contained within Flemish waters. 
They had to go a long way out of their way close to the 
south-western coast of Holland, and these submarine 
tracks became known to the naval authorities. In the 
later stages of the war an attempt was made to mine this 
exit just short of neutral seas ; but it was just this neutral 
stretch of Dutch waterway which made the whole idea of 
the barrage impracticable. In pre -submarine days it 
would not have mattered much. In the case of any surface 
ship using territorial waters she could have been seen. 
But the U-boats at Zeebrugge could negotiate the Dutch 
channels between the sandbanks, either by day or by night. 
If by day, they would be submerged and unseen ; if by 


night they would be very difficult to observe, and at any 
moment could dive to periscope depth and evade the 
neutral patrol, however vigilant. Thus a German advanced 
base existed almost at the eastern mouth of the English 
Channel : it was like bringing Heligoland so many miles 
nearer England. The base could not be wiped out ; it 
succoured, refitted, revictualled, replenished with mines 
and ammunition, and refreshed the tired crews of the 
U-boats, UBs, UCs, just as often as they had orders to 
come in and out of Zeebrugge and up to Bruges. Strategic- 
ally this base was well placed for offensive operations, 
either by mine or torpedo, or by machine-gun or heavier 
armament upon the swept channel which began at the 
Downs and extended north to about the Firth of Forth. 
It was difficult enough to prevent such attacks, for the 
reason that the naval authorities were short of ships. 
The demand for destroyers and craft for the Auxiliary 
Patrol went on incessantly : the most that could be done 
in those critical times was to carry on with exiguous forces. 
The Auxiliary Patrol was concerned with mines as well 
as submarines. The enemy's mine-laying operations 
throughout the war may be divided into two periods. 
From August 1914 until June 1915 all the mines were laid 
by surface ships. From June 1915 to the end of hostilities 
practically all the mine-fields were laid by submarines, 
though there were several important exceptions. The 
Southwold mine-field had been allowed to remain practically 
intact except for certain passages through it which were 
swept, unknown to the enemy, as a matter of convenience. 
The Humber mine-field continued to exist, though parts 
of it were swept in the spring and early summer of 1916, 
the trawlers Or cades and Alberta being mined and sunk in 
the process. The Tyne mine-field remained as before. 
On June 11th, 1915, the Outer Silver Pit mine-field was 
discovered by the foundering of the fishing-trawler Dovey. 
It was wrongly supposed, at first, that this was part of the 
Humber mine-field, the north-west portion of which was 
swept up in June 1915,^ The Tory Island mine-field, laid 
in the autumn of 1914, continued to give a good deal of 
trouble to the sweepers, and it was not until March 1916 
that it was declared clear. The Scarborough mine-field 

^ The south-east end was swept up a year later, by which time several 
other fishing-trawlers had been blown up in the field. 


had long since been dealt with, though an odd mine was 
found off that part of the Yorkshire coast in September 
1915. The Swarte Bank mine-field continued in existence 
during the summer of 1915, but was cleared by the middle 
of August. The Dogger Bank mine-field, laid fork-shaped 
in the middle of the North Sea towards the end of May 1915 
and discovered by fishing-trawlers, had been defined by 
the sweepers, and as late as September 1915 the Dutch 
s.s. Eemdijk foundered on it. Thanks, however, to the 
work of the trawlers, the enemy's object — the entrapping 
of the Grand Fleet — had been frustrated. 

On either August 7th or 8th, 1915, a big mine-field was 
laid across the Moray Firth by the German armed auxiliary 
Meteor, which sank the armed boarding-steamer The 
Ramsay. Nearly 400 mines were laid in zigzag lines. 
The mine-field was soon discovered and no harm came to 
any portion of the Grand Fleet. It involved, of course, 
heavy and dangerous work for trawlers, paddlers, and 
sloops, but by the middle of October of the same year 
249 mines had been destroyed — a very fin,e record ! On 
New Year's Day 1916 the raider Mowe laid about 200 
mines between Sule Skerry and Cape Wrath in a rough 
semicircle, thus fouling the western approach to Scapa 
Flow, and causing the loss of the battleship King 
Edward VII five days later. In this instance also 
the mine-sweepers had the difficult job of carrying out 
their work exposed to the full force of the Atlantic, as 
had been the case off Tory Island. It was a slow, tedious 

The proceedings of the mine-laying craft became so 
persistent and thorough, when once they had begun in 
June 1915, that it is impossible to deal with them in detail. 
With the regularity almost of a freighter, the UC-boats 
would load up with mines at Bruges, pass out through the 
Zeebrugge locks, cross the North Sea, and lay the mines 
off such positions as the Shipwash, Sunk, South Goodwin, 
Kentish Knock, Stanford Channel, Elbow Buoy, Le Havre, 
Boulogne, Black Deep, Edinburgh Lightship, Aldeburgh 
Napes, and so on. Having deposited their cargoes, they 
would go back to Bruges and come out with another lot. 
In this way not only were heavy losses caused to British 
and neutral shipping, but the demands on the trawler and 
paddler mine-sweepers rapidly increased. The neighbour- 


hood of important lightships and headlands had to be 
swept regularly ; long traffic lanes up the coast had to be 
maintained in a swept condition ; and the casualty lists 
of the sweepers and crews began to mount up. The loss 
of life came with appalling suddenness. Dutch mail- 
steamers, Trinity House pilot-ships, British hghtships, 
steamers of all sizes, including the P. & O. liner Maloja, 
were blown up and many lives sacrificed. 

All sections of the Auxiliary Patrol, which were not 
employed in sweeping, were necessarily engaged in 
locating these mine-layers. Drifters laid their nets in 
likely areas, and occasionally the enemy would either be 
destroyed or he would founder on his own mines, as was 
the case with UC9 in October 1916. Mines are blind ; 
they have no respect for one particular ship more than 
another. On November 17th, 1915, the hospital ship 
Anglia foundered on mines laid off Dover by UC5. This 
had the effect of stopping for a while all cross-Channel 
traffic, and the enemy thus assisted his own armies. On the 
same day that the Anglia blew up, a Greek steamer and a 
Norwegian vessel hit mines off the Galloper Lightship. 

The essential effect of all this intensive mine-laying by 
the enemy was that patrol-trawlers had to be ready to 
turn over to mine-sweeping when required and thus " work 
double tides." Gradually the mining areas spread as far 
north as the Humber and as far west as the Needles. 
Then from April 1916 there appeared the first U-boat 
mine -layers, who could go farther afield and carry more 
mines than the Flanders boats. Mines were now laid off 
the Firth of Forth, off the Orkneys (causing the loss of 
H.M.S. Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on board). 
Thence onwards the campaign extended to almost every 
area of the British Isles where shipping was wont to 
voyage. The north of Scotland, west and south of Ireland, 
and the Irish Sea were affected ; mines were laid off the 
port of Liverpool ; the Isle of Man ; in the Bristol Channel ; 
off the various headlands and harbour entrances of the 
English Channel ; the overseas submarines were able to 
deposit their explosive cargoes even off certain ports in 
the Bay of Biscay as well as in the Mediterranean, whereas 
at one time the UC-boats based on Flanders had been 
limited to the south-eastern ports of the English coast. 
The latter had begun by carrying only a dozen mines, 


but the U-boat mine-layers which made their appearance 
early in 1916 had space for as many as thirty-four. Even- 
tually they were able to lay mines in districts so far apart 
as the White Sea in the north and the west coast of Africa 
in the south. 

The Admiralty had good reason to commend the 
persistent work of the mine-sweepers during the first two 
years of the war ; for in this period they succeeded in 
destroying 3,567 German mines. By the end of the year 
1916 the number had been increased to 4,574, figures which 
indicate sufficiently the thoroughness of the mine-sweepers' 
operations ; but nearly 400 vessels had been sunk or 
damaged in carrying out the work. Some idea of the 
enemy's persistency can be formed when it is stated that 
between the Sunk and Cross Sands Lightships — a regular 
traffic lane where ships were passing at almost every hour of 
the day — thirty-one German mines were destroyed. In the 
Harwich area the enemy was, of course, aiming, not 
merely at the merchant shipping, but at Commodore 
Tyrwhitt's light cruisers and destroyers. The Germans 
therefore plastered these shallow waters pretty thoroughly 
as soon as suitable submarine mine-layers were available, 
and during the year 1916 the sweepers in this area alone 
destroyed over 400 mines ; U-boats during the same year 
laid exactly seventy-two mines in the White Sea, and all 
but thirty of them were located by trawlers and destroyed 
during the same season before the ice froze in. Operations 
had to cease on December 1st, some of the trawlers and 
colliers going to Romanoff, while the rest crossed the 
North Sea to Lerwick. The traffic in the White Sea was 
heavy at this stage, as the enemy had surmised, and the 
trawlers well deserved the extra week's leave which was 
awarded them on their return for their good service. 

Before the end of the year, an alteration had been made 
in the administration of the mine-sweeping. Originally 
Admiral Charlton had been in charge of the mine-sweeping 
department at the Admiralty. He had been succeeded 
by another Admiral ; but from December 18th, 1916, these 
operations were delegated to a Captain of Mine-sweeping 
under the new Anti- Submarine Division. The title 
" Captain of Mine-sweeping " was later on altered to 
" Superintendent of Mine-sweeping," and in October 1917 
the mine -sweeping operations came under a " Director of 


Mine-sweeping," who controlled all mine-sweeping in home 
waters, was responsible for the distribution of mine-sweep- 
ing vessels, and advised the naval staff at the Admiralty 
on the subject of mine-sweeping abroad, for during 1916 
the enemy submarines had been laying mines off the 
Italian and French ports, especially off Genoa, Marseilles, 
Taranto, Gallipoli (Italy), Brindisi, Venice, Valona, Corfu, 
Bizerta and Oran. Similarly off Cretan ports, off Milo, 
in the Zea Channel, off Salonika, Mudros, Port Said, 
Alexandria, and Malta these unwelcome cargoes were 
deposited with disastrous results to merchant shipping. 
Paddlers and trawlers and M.L.s, as well as drifters, were 
being dispatched from England, but the enemy was also 
replenishing his forces by sending out more submarines 
from Germany. 

At home serious losses of mine-sweeping craft were being 
sustained. Trawlers are comparatively deep-draught 
vessels, especially aft, and risks had to be accepted as 
inevitable. Paddlers were being employed more and 
more because of the shallowness of their hulls, and they 
were on the whole not unlucky. But this is not to say that 
they did not suffer ; when the fatal moment came for them 
it arrived quickly, as in the case of the two paddlers Totnes 
and Ludlow. Four days after Christmas they were sweep- 
ing off the ShipAvash Lightship when both were mined 
within a few minutes of each other. The former had her 
bows blown off and the latter lost her stern. The Totnes 
was towed into Harwich, but the Ludlow sank during the 

The bra very of the mine-sweepers constitutes a fine record 
of the war. From the moment that the ship put to sea 
in the early morning before the other craft were allowed 
to move, she was really in action. When and where or at 
what depth below the surface mines would be found it 
was impossible to say. There was no preliminary bom- 
bardment to announce the enemy's oncoming ; there were 
no scouting forces to foretell an engagement. The trawlers 
might sweep for a week and not find a mine, and then of a 
sudden, in an unusual place, they would come upon a little 
patch ; some of the mines would be caught in the wire 
sweeps, but others, or perhaps a stray mine, would just 
be close enough to catch the trawler's heel, and up she 
would go, and after the column of black smoke had 


disappeared to leeward, there would be no trawler ; only a 
few bits of wreckage would remain with two or three of 
the crew in life-saving belts swimming near them ; a stray 
corpse or two would be seen going silently down with the 
tide. To see such things happen, and to go out day after 
day, for months on end, doing the same risky work, perhaps 
being fired at by a submarine in the distance, required 
courage and grit. But it did not end there. At times 
more than this was required, and this little bit more meant 
a good deal to the winning of the war. In the first part 
of the campaign the British mines were not satisfactory, 
and a good deal could be learnt from the enemy. Orders 
were issued, therefore, that, if possible, a German mine was 
to be removed whole so that it might be examined by the 
British experts. The recovery of such a dangerous thing 
as a mine is a very different thing from merely destroying 
it, especially as it was known that about the only inefficient 
thing about a German mine was the safety device. Never- 
theless the task had to be done, and the following incident 
illustrates the way the mine-sweeping personnel furnished 
knowledge to the Admiralty. 

In the course of sweeping the Moray Firth in September 
1916, a mine was caught in Cullen Bay and buoyed. The 
next procedure was to get it into shallow water. This 
was accomplished by employing rowing-boats, which passed 
a wire with a long loop of chain round the mine and thus 
swept it up to the surface. Then, with considerable risk 
and no little skill, the mine was cut from its moorings and, 
in spite of a heavy autumn swell, was towed into Burghead 
Bay and moored. After darkness had set in, the paddler 
Glen Usk kept her searchlight playing on the mine and 
warned off approaching vessels. On the following day 
the mine was safely towed towards the shore by the boats 
of the two paddlers, St. Elvies and Glen Usk, and beached. 
The whole operation of lifting the mine on to the shore was 
very dangerous, especially when it was discovered that 
the detonator was jammed, but both mine and sinker were 
recovered complete. This was a notable achievement, 
inasmuch as many attempts had previously been made to 
salve sinkers, but without success. The naval authorities, 
as a result of this successful and plucky operation, 
were able to carry out some highly satisfactory experi- 


5ff SHETLAND 1^ 

is oRKNEV isi^wns 


('' ^^ ^S C T I, A N J) / 

'•f Z. J'' 



S F. A 

s ;" Hull, 


D K N M -^ R Iv . 




' I S I S H S E .1 ' l™„.„sf;;;i^j ^((^ 

I K K I, A N n 1. 1 , . „, Cr.msb, f-^ I 1., 

E N (J 1, A N ji'""-"'^ 





(i K H M A N Y I 



■ ""OEtencl NAntvverp 

^<;bis H K. 1. (. 1 V M 

land* End (^f~~, 
Scillyli :■ \iiard Hd 


AUTUMN OF 1915. 


-v^ — > 

Mine Are3% 1 — I 

Headquarters of the Auxil/iary Patrol Aress m Red 

A N 



" I beg respectfully," wrote Commander Gervase W. H. 
Heaton, R.N., who was in charge of these paddlers, " to 
bring to your notice the magnificent work of the individual 
boats' crews, who when within feet of the mine carried 
out their work jokingly — and especially the names of 
Temporary Lieutenant William Highton, R.N.R., of the 
St. Elvies, and William Westborough, C.P.O., of the St. 
Elvies. This officer and petty officer never left the mine 
for a moment, and by their resource and endeavours were 
mainly responsible for the safe accomplishment of the 

" Much ingenuity, pluck, and good seamanship were 
shown," wrote Admiral Jellicoe to the Admiralty, " and 
all parts of the mine and sinker were recovered." '' The 
general tone of those present," reported Captain L. G. 
Preston, R.N., who was in charge of the Fleet Sweepers, 
" struck me in the light of a picnic-party." The Admiralty 
sent a letter of appreciation to these gallant mine-sweepers, 
who, had they been asked, would have stated that they 
preferred this sort of dangerous " picnic " every day of 
the war rather than the uneventful monotony which was 
the main characteristic of their routine, week after week. 



In an earlier chapter particulars were given of the develop- 
ment before the war of the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Re- 
serve. By February 1915 188 of these craft had been 
pressed into the national service. Scotch motor fishing- 
boats were also included in the force. With it were associ- 
ated 272 R.N.V.R. officers and about 450 motor mechanics 
ratings and skippers. They were employed at such differ- 
ent stations as Scapa Flow, Cromarty, Firth of Forth, 
Humber, Great Yarmouth, Harwich, Dover, Portsmouth, 
Plymouth, on the seaward end of the army's line in 
Flanders (based on Dunkirk), and eventually in Egypt, 
Malta, and Smyrna. Originally they were intended to 
examine the coasts and inlets, but it was realised in 
March 1915 that not in every case were they so employed. 
Being built originally for summer yachting, they were 
not seaworthy enough at sea, fast enough for offensive 
work, nor sufficiently stoutly built to carry armament 
even if such had been available. For the most part 
they were being employed during these early months 
for such duties as dispatch-carrying, harbour-policing, 
traffic control, boarding, and so on. These amateur sailors 
had created a most favourable impression and were 
obviously suited for better craft. In July of this year it 
was decided that the Royal Naval Motor-Boat Reserve, 
which had been administered by a separate committee 
at the Admiralty, should be amalgamated with the organi- 
sation known as the Yacht Patrol, which, in turn, presently 
changed its official name to the Auxiliary Patrol. 

The need for more seaworthy, faster, and better-armed 
motor-craft began to be considered in the spring of 1915 
during Lord Fisher's regime as First Sea Lord. The result 
was that on April 9th, 1915, a contract was signed for fifty 
motor-launches — to be built on the other side of the North 



Atlantic. Three months later the number on order was 
increased to 550. The pattern boat was built at Bayonne, 
New Jersey, U.S.A., where all the initial work was carried 
out. The twin sets of engines were also made in the United 
States, but the assembling of the craft was done at Quebec 
and Montreal. The later M.L.s (after the first fifty had 
been begun) were slightly longer, being 80 feet long, and 
each boat was fitted with a pair of 220-h.p. motors, twin 
screws. The M.L.s were afterwards put in cradles and 
shipped to England, four at a time, on the decks of trans- 
ports. It is a notable fact that the whole 550 M.L.s were 
built in 488 days. As these craft began to arrive, they 
found their crews awaiting them. By the end of August 
1915 R.N.V.R. officers were being recalled from the R.N. 
motor-boats for courses of instruction at Portsmouth for 
service in the M.L.s. 

On September 1st six of these M.L.s reached Ports- 
mouth from the other side of the Atlantic. The engines 
were overhauled, and a fortnight later the trials of the 
13-pounder guns mounted in them took place. Experi- 
ments were made with these M.L.s at sea soon after 
arrival, and it was ascertained that with careful handling 
they could keep the sea in fair weather, but that with a 
following sea great caution would be required. Their 
fine form forward and the flat transom stern aft caused 
them to bury their bows and broach to. However, the 
primary aim of the design was speed — to rush towards 
a submarine — and it is not easy to obtain in an 80-foot 
boat accommodation for officers and men, extreme 
mobility, good sea-keeping qualities, and the stoutness 
requisite for mounting a gun forward. Like all other 
ships that have ever been built, the M.L.s were a com- 
promise. They were not ideal craft, but in the hands of 
trained yachtsmen, with crews of fishermen and others, 
they performed really excellent work during the war. 
They were ableto sweep up mine-fields where deeper-draught 
craft dared not venture : they maintained a patrol all 
round the coast, as well as in the Mediterranean, in the 
Otranto Straits, in Egyptian waters, in the West Indies, 
and so on ; they assisted in convoying merchant ships ; 
when organised into hydrophone hunting flotillas, they 
harried the U-boats, and, as is known from enemy sources, 
were much feared by the German seamen. Apart from 


contributing indirectly to the destruction of various sub- 
marines, the M.L.s on more than one occasion did 
definitely and directly send enemy submarines to their 
doom. On October 14th M.L.s 1, 2, and 3 were com- 
missioned at Portsmouth. On the 21st M.L.4 left Ports- 
mouth, reached London the following day, and was in- 
spected off the Thames Embankment by representatives 
of the Admiralty. During that autumn and the early 
months of the next year, Portsmouth continued to fit out 
these craft, and gradually every base in the Auxiliary 
Patrol areas had its own M.L. flotilla. Some were shipped 
again aboard transports and sent out to the Suez Canal 
and Adriatic. Others proceeded on their own power, by 
way of the French canals, to the Mediterranean. In these 
various ways a new force was added to the Royal Navy 
in home as well as distant waters. 

In no area were M.L.s more useful than in the Dover 
Patrol, especially in connection with the Belgian coast 
barrage and the Dover barrage. During the autumn of 
1914 British and French mines had been laid in the southern 
part of the North Sea for the protection of the Dover 
Straits and English Channel against possible attack on 
the cross-Channel transports by means of surface vessels. 
At that time the British mines were not very satisfactory, 
and many of these so-called mine-fields had broken adrift 
owing to the weak character of the mooring wires. In 
January 1915 Lord Fisher advocated further mining of the 
Dover Straits, and on the 4th of the following month the 
laying of the first Dover barrage was begun. The scheme 
was that mines should stretch irregularly from north of 
Dunkirk across the Straits to a little east of Elbow Buoy, 
near Broadstairs. The operation was completed by 
February 16th. This barrage was well to the north-east- 
ward of the Straits. Nominally it existed until the spring 
of 1918, but on sweeping over it the barrage was found to 
be non-existent, and it may be assumed now that, for the 
reason just mentioned, it existed only on paper except 
for a very short period. To the south-west of this barrage 
was the line of Dover drifters riding to their nets across 
the Straits. Although for a time these nets did actually 
foil the enemy submarines and deny to them the passage 
of the Straits, yet, by the autumn of 1915, the enemy 
had learned the trick of dodging these nets at night ; he 











succeeded, in fact, in finding gaps, of which he made use. 
It was all very well to take a chart and draw a line across 
the Straits and point to the fact that the straight line 
represented an obstruction of nets. In practice this did 
not exist. The tides in the Straits are strong, and the 
nets had to be towed across the tide ; therefore, what 
with this natural disadvantage, and the fouling of nets 
on submerged wreckage which had existed for many years, 
in association with the difficulties caused by darkness and 
bad weather, it was not possible to regard this net barrage 
as a rigid, inflexible, impenetrable barrier. 

The first really effective cross-Channel barrage was that 
which was laid between December 17th, 1916, and February 
8th, 1917. This extended from the South Goodwins to 
the Snow and consisted of moored mine-nets and deep 
mines. The mine-nets, instead of being towed by the 
drifters, were secured to buoys and were thus securely 
sustained. These buoys were numbered OA, lA, 2A, and 
so on, smaller buoys being laid in between them. On the 
southern side were placed a line of light buoys every three 
miles, the object being to prevent the patrols getting foul 
of this barrage. Secret gaps were left to permit craft to 
go across to the Belgian coast in safety, and these were 
frequently changed so as to deceive the enemy. The 
laying and maintaining of this net barrage was the work 
of the Dover drifters. It was kept patrolled by about 
twenty-four drifters, by the Dover M.L.s, and by other 
craft. Thirty more drifters were used for laying the nets. 
Thus, theoretically, by the use of lines of mines, lines of 
nets, and patrol-vessels the Dover Straits were rendered 
impassable to enemy craft. 

In actual experience, it should be added, this Dover 
barrage was not a complete success. Owing to bad 
weather and the strong tides, the nets could never 
be maintained in an efficient condition. Moreover, the 
German submarines were able, by picking their way 
at night, to cross the nets, usually by drifting over them 
at high water. Secondly, the mines unfortunately dragged 
their moorings and fouled the nets, and by the spring of 
1917 became a serious danger to our vessels working about 
the nets. When, eventually, in the early part of 1918, it 
was established beyond all manner of doubt that this 
cross-Channel barrage was not stopping the submarines, 


it was abandoned. The buoys and nets — or as many as 
still existed — were left in position and not replaced when 
they broke adrift. This decision naturally released a large 
number of small craft for other work. " There is no doubt," 
Admiral Bacon has stated in The Dover Patrol 1915-17, 
that " this barrage never stopped submarines passing . . . 
it was an undoubted deterrent to destroyers." It may be 
added that it was not until we became possessed of efficient 
mines and gear that it was possible to make the straits a 
terror to German submarines. When improved mines 
were available, the laying of the Folkestone-Grisnez deep 
mine-field was undertaken — in the winter of 1917-18. It 
had not been quite completed by the time the Armistice 
arrived, but it may be said at once that, owing to this 
very thorough barrage and the restless activity of the 
vigilant destroyers and small craft of the Auxiliary Patrol, 
the passage of the Dover Straits by enemy submarines was 
made as nearly as possible a superhuman task. 

On the other side of the Channel, vessels of the Auxiliary 
Patrol were assisting the French Navy and protecting from 
submarines transports which were sustaining the Allied 
armies. The approaches to Le Havre, for very obvious 
reasons, M'ere a favourite region for German submarines. 
It was their practice to lie about in this area, lay mines, 
and attack incoming steamers carrying stores for the 
Western Front. A number of British drifters had there- 
fore been based on this harbour. Just before 5 o'clock 
on the morning of April 5th, 1916, Lieutenant J. M'Lough- 
lin, R.N.R., who was in charge of half a dozen British net 
drifters at Havre, was informed by the French authorities 
that a submarine had been sighted in the Roads near the 
Whistling Buoy. He immediately ordered the Endurance, 
Welcome Star, Stately, Comrades, Pleiades, and Pleasance, 
to proceed to sea as soon as the tide served. At 7.40 a.m. 
they left port and at 10.15 a.m. the Pleiades shot her net 
two miles west of the Whistling Buoy, the other drifters 
following suit. 

Just as the net drifter Endurance was shooting her 
nets, there were indications that a submarine had fouled 
the nets. She therefore sent up a rocket distress signal 
to that effect. Immediately before this incident occurred, 
the Comrades had felt a shock underneath her hull, accom- 
panied by a bumping on the ship's bottom. It was 


evident that a submarine was in trouble, for the next 
incident was the periscope of a submarine striking the 
rudder of the Endurance, so heavily as to put the rudder 
out of action. Still bungling on her way, the submarine 
ran foul of so much of the Endurance's net as had been 
shot. Like a skilful angler playing a fish at the end of 
his line, the skipper of the Endurance now paid out the 
rest of his nets as rapidly as the submarine was taking them. 
The result was that the German craft became completely 
enveloped in the nets, heading off in a north-easterly direc- 
tion. The Endurance was compelled to let go the last of her 
nets, as, owing to her damaged rudder, she was unable to 

On hearing the rocket distress signal fired, the rest 
of the drifters had closed on the Endurance so as to 
encircle the submarine. The enemy was now caught in a 
trap and the prisoner of these fishermen. Not all his wiles 
could avail him, for he had been definitely outmanoeuvred. 
All that remained was to give the death-blow. The French 
torpedo-boat Le Trombe was soon on the scene and quickly 
got into position close to the Endurance. Having sighted 
the indicator buoy of the net marking the submarine's 
apparent position, the Le Trombe dropped three bombs, 
which had the desired effect. The enemy decided to come 
to the surface and surrender. Some of the German crew 
jumped overboard, but they were picked up by the Welcome 
Star and the Le Trombe. The former saved five Germans 
by means of a fine and buoy, and then, launching her boat, 
took three German officers from the submarine and put 
them on board the torpedo-boat. Seven more Germans 
were saved by the drifter Stately. This saving of life of a 
defeated enemy was, of course, only in accordance with 
the humane traditions of the brotherhood of the sea, and 
the action of the Allies in this respect contrasted with the 
callousness of certain commanders of German submarines 
in allowing non-combatant passengers as well as crews of 
merchant ships to perish. 

But, to conclude this inspiriting story, after the 
German prisoners had been accounted for, the Stately and 
Welcome Star remained with the submarine until French 
trawlers arrived to take the German prize in tow, assisted 
by the Comrades. The Endurance, owing to her damaged 
rudder, had to be towed in by the Pleasance. On the way 


the submarine sank, but in shoal water, so that that mis- 
fortune was of httle account. It had been a great day for 
the drifters, and both the British and the French naval 
authorities took favourable notice of the exploit. The 
former highly commended "the excellent work done by the 
drifters " on this occasion, and referred to the destruction 
of the submarine as having been due entirely to the promp- 
titude of Lieutenant M'Loughlin and the skill of Skipper 
T. C. Wylie, who had so handled the Endurance's nets 
that the submarine could not tear her way through. The 
Admiralty decorated both these officers with the D.S.C., 
whilst two ratings received the D.S.M. In addition, the 
Admiralty awarded the sum of £1,000 to be divided between 
the six drifters, to which the French Government con- 
tributed a further sum of 8,000 francs. These drifters 
had arrived on the station but a day or two previously, 
and were a distinct asset at a most important point along the 
lines of communications. The submarine sunk was UB26. 
She had left the Ems in the afternoon of March 19th, kept 
two or three miles off the Dutch coast, and reached Zee- 
brugge on the morning of March 21st. At the end of the 
month, being based on Flanders, she had set out from 
Zeebrugge and begun operating in the English Channel. 
In her were found German charts which showed among 
other things that the enemy knew the position of the net 
barrage across Dover Straits — from the South Goodwins 
to the Snow. The submarine had crossed this barrage 
about midway between the South Goodwins and the 
Outer Ruytingen. 

It must not, however, be assumed that the vessels of 
the Auxiliary Patrol were active or efficient only in those 
areas where they succeeded in fighting and sinking the 
enemy. " Happy," it might have been declared, " was 
the patrol area that had no history." For, if the patrols 
were absolutely and entirely efficient, they should at all 
times have succeeded in keeping the submarine under 
water ; no ships would have been sunk and none attacked. 
There were, however, for certain geographical or strategical 
reasons, certain areas which were bound to come into 
prominence. The Dover Straits have been specially 
mentioned, because that was the eastern entrance to the 
highway leading from Germany to the Atlantic. Another 
way was across the North Sea and round the north of 










Scotland, and for that reason the north-east coast was also 
a busy sphere. In trying to forestall an enemy's move- 
ments and intentions, it has been regarded as a good rule 
" to put yourself in his place." There was reason, for 
example, on examining the north-east coast situation, to 
expect that submarines would operate on or near the 
Tyne-to-Bergen trade route. That was a reasonable 
supposition, because the enemy knew well how important 
in the prosecution of the war this particular trade route 
was. In the month of May 1916 Rear- Admiral Simpson, 
the Senior Naval Officer at Peterhead, was directing his 
trawlers on patrol to pay especial attention to that area. 
Thus it occurred that on May 27th, when in lat. 57° 10' N., 
long. 1° 20' E., half an hour after noon, the trawler 
Searanger (Lieutenant H. J. Bray, R.N.R.) was patrolling 
when the commanding officer sighted a sail and smoke to 
the northward, proceeding eastward. Lieutenant Bray 
ordered full speed ahead and, on proceeding to investigate, 
found that the sail and smoke had revealed the presence 
of a submarine. This stratagem had been tried before, 
and under certain atmospheric conditions it was successful 
if the patrols were not particularly watchful and inquisitive. 
By 12.45 p.m. events had happened so quickly that the 
Searanger and two accompanying trawlers, the Oku and 
Rodino, had opened fire on the submarine at a range 
of 4,000 yards. The sea being smooth, it was not long 
before the exact distance was found and one shot was 
seen to strike the submarine aft. She was a big craft, 
with a large conning-tower and wireless installation. 

The submarine presumed that these trawlers belonged 
to the group of Hull fishing-fleet which had scattered earlier 
in the day on her approach. In accordance with Admiral 
Simpson's orders, the patrol unit was cruising in no 
formation, but was dispersed as if fishing. The enemy, 
taken by surprise by the gunfire, at once lowered sail 
and, having one gun forward and one aft, returned the 
trawlers' fire. The submarine began by concentrating the 
shells from both guns alternately on a trawler, but all the 
time the trawlers were closing in upon their prey. In 
a little while the enemy's after gun had apparently become 
damaged, for fire ceased and reopened only with the for- 
ward gun, the shots falling short. It was observed on 
board both the Searanger and Rodino that the periscope 


had been partially shot away. It was soon evident that 
the enemy was already tired of the engagement, for he 
ceased fire altogether, and made an effort to escape by 

By this time the unit of trawlers had more than half 
encircled the submarine and shell after shell was being 
placed with admirable accuracy. The submarine at length 
rose well out of the water with a heavy list to port, like 
a wounded thing, and an endeavour was made to finish 
her off. Both the Oku and Searanger did their best to 
ram her, but she was making an erratic course towards 
the centre of the unit, apparently trying to get alongside 
the trawler Kimberley, the fourth vessel of the group. 
As the submarine came within eight feet of the latter, it 
was impossible to ram, but as she passed the Kimberley 
fired three shots into her. By this time the submarine 
was heeling over to port and sinking stern first. Finally, 
after a shot from the Kimberley, she sank out of sight, 
leaving a large quantity of oil on the surface. 

It was now 1.30 p.m., and the unit continued to cruise 
about in the vicinity until 3 p.m., when the quantity of 
oil on the surface had considerably increased. In this 
way the career was ended of U74 ; having been seriously 
damaged by the first three trawlers, she was given the 
coup de grace by the Kimberley. It was an almost ideal 
engagement, the fighting trawlers utilising their guns in 
association with the courage and plain common-sense 
tactics of the crews against the German U-boat, with her 
superior gun-power and her torpedoes. It was well, 
indeed, that U74 had been destroyed, for this was the craft 
which had but a few weeks before laid a dangerous mine- 
field in the Firth of Forth, and would doubtless have con- 
tinued her mining warfare at a later date. 

This engagement occurred four days before the Battle 
of Jutland, and it may be asked : Were the vessels of the 
Auxiliary Patrol able, on that historic day, to render any 
service ? Obviously such craft could have no part in a 
fleet action, nor could they operate so far from their base 
as the coast of Jutland. The duty of the vessels of the 
Auxiliary Patrol were carried out within easy distance 
of the British coast, and it was just when the Grand Fleet 
would be making the land on its return from battle, 
probably with some ships badly wounded, that the smaller 


craft might be useful in repelling the attacks of submarines 
lying in wait. Thus, on June 1st, three armed trawlers 
from Granton were dispatched on the information that 
three torpedoes had been fired at an incoming ship. Later 
in the same day submarines were reported off May Island, 
and the yacht Mingary sighted a submarine that was trying 
to intercept H.M.S. Warspite returning with her scars 
received in the Jutland battle. The Mingary and her 
unit at once gave chase to the submarine, but it submerged 
and escaped. On the night of May 31st, in consequence 
of the news which he had received. Admiral Startin 
dispatched from Granton every available armed yacht, 
armed trawler, and mine-sweeping trawler to positions 
which these craft were ordered to occupy in the event of a 
fleet action. He sent also fourteen of his drifters up the 
Forth to Rosyth with cots ready to land the wounded from 
the men-of-war as soon as they should arrive. So carefully, 
indeed, had everything been foreseen that during the 
previous weeks Admiral Startin had instituted special 
classes at Granton for the instruction of the drifter men in 
the transport of wounded and in general first aid. Thus 
a fortnight before the Battle of Jutland forty-four skippers 
and second hands had qualified for certificates. 

The loss of U74 mentioned on the opposite page was 
important not merely because she was a submarine, but 
because she was probably the first to operate according to a 
new plan. At the beginning of the war, as has been stated, 
enemy mine-laying was done by surface ships. Then came 
the UC-boats which, based on Flanders, laid their mines 
off the south-east coast of England. As the commanders 
of these craft became more daring and efficient, they laid 
the mines as far north as Flamborough and as far west as 
Land's End. Such was their success that a bigger type of 
mine-layer was evolved, which could go farther distances. 
These were the U- mine -layers and belonged, not to the 
Flanders Flotilla, but to the High Sea Fleet. From about 
April 1916 until the end of the war, these U-mine-layers, 
based on the Elbe, laid their mines off various parts of the 
British Isles, including even the west of Ireland, but not 
in the Flamborough-south-east coast-Land's End area, 
which was reserved for the UC-boats from Flanders. 
It is not possible to state which was the first mine-field 
that can be attributed to these U-boats, nor on what date 


it M^as laid. But it is certain, however, that the Firth of 
Forth mine-field was the first and that it was laid on or 
about April 18th, 1916, by U74. Other U-boat mine- 
fields were laid soon afterwards, as for example that of 
the Brough of Birsay causing the loss of H.M.S. Hampshire 
and the death of Lord Kitchener ; the Moray Firth, 
Southern Channel, Tyne, Skerryvore, South of Ireland, 
Bristol Channel, Clyde approaches, Isle of Man, and off 
the north-east English ports. The effect of this increased 
mining activity was to scatter the mine-sweeping forces 
by causing a unit of mine-sweepers to be located at every 
port. Seeing that the number of Auxiliary Patrol ships 
and men was limited, and the more of them were em- 
ployed in mine-sweeping the fewer could be employed in 
the purely offensive duty of harrying submarines, this was 
sound strategy on the part of the enemy. What happened 
was that a large part of the available force was diverted 
to defensive duties — into sweeping clear passages for 
merchant ships ; whereas the U-boat, having once de- 
posited her cargo of mines, could begin to torpedo shipping 
at will and without so much interference by armed trawlers 
and M.L.s. 

How consistently and persistently this policy was 
carried out in the summer of 1916 is revealed by the bare 
record of the attacks on fishing-trawlers. During the 
night of July 5th-6th a German submarine sank no fewer 
than seven Scotch drifters off the Tyne. During the 
preceding week a large fleet of Scotch drifters had been 
working off this coast, following the herrings. On this 
night the fleet was very much spread when first attacked, 
and the Senior Naval Officer at the Tyne had allotted every 
available vessel of the newly armed drifters as well as 
some armed trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol to go to sea 
with the fishermen and bring them home in safety. These 
methods appeared to be successful in stopping raids on 
fishing-fleets, but some trawlers and drifters afterwards 
fell victims to the enemy. Two torpedo-boats also operated 
in the fishing area, and visited the fleets every morning 
and evening. Another fishing-vessel was sunk on July 10th ; 
three days later four more were sunk off Scarborough and 
Whitby ; next day five more off the Tyne ; three more 
on July 27th ; six on the day following ; and three more 
on the last day of July. Thus in one month a total of 


twenty-five fishing-craft were sunk off the Tyne alone. 
It was reported that the submarines concerned were large, 
possessing a couple of wireless masts and a gun. The 
situation was so serious that at the beginning of August 
the area had to be patrolled by H.M.S. Active or Light- 
foot, with six destroyers of the Fourth Flotilla. In spite 
of the Active and destroyers, the enemy began by setting 
fire to a steamer off Coquet Island. On August 6th twelve 
armed trawlers and twenty-four drifters with mine-nets 
reached the Tyne. Until their arrival the work of 
escorting shipping had been so heavy that practically no 
patrolling could be done by trawlers ; whatever armed 
trawlers were available were sent to protect the drifter 
fishing-fleets. These newly arrived drifters were at once 
employed as a disguised fishing-fleet and sent to a position 
fifteen miles east-north-east of the Tyne, convoyed by 
armed trawlers. This was about the position where the 
fishing-drifters had been sunk at the end of July. The 
attacks now ceased, but began again on September 23rd. 

A dead-set was clearly being made on all trawlers and 
drifters, whether of the fishing-fleets or of the Auxiliary 
Patrol. Perhaps this development was due to the annoy- 
ance of the enemy at the splendid way in which fishermen, 
enrolled in His Majesty's service, were helping the Navy 
and fighting the submarine as well as the mine ; perhaps 
it was mere " frightfulness," fed by a desire to intimidate 
men who had been using the sea all their lives, from leaving 
port again. In any case, it had no permanent effect. 
On July 7th, farther up the North Sea, a unit of armed 
trawlers from Peterhead, consisting of the Martin, Glamis 
Castle, Ibis, Editor, Albatross, and Consort, were at 7.15 a.m. 
in lat. 58° 20' N., long. 0° 48' E., when a submarine 
was sighted to the north-west. Twenty- five minutes later 
a second submarine was sighted to the north-east. The 
first was now chased by the Consort and Glamis Castle ; 
whilst the Martin, Albatross, and Editor pursued the second, 
opening fire on her and causing her to submerge. At 
11.30 a.m. the Consort and Glamis Castle returned from their 
chase, having lost sight of their quarry after twenty miles. 
But at 7 p.m. the unit again sighted a submarine about 
six miles south of the position where the enemy had been 
fired on during the morning. At 8 o'clock the Albatross, 
which was ahead, opened fire. The submarine returned 


the fire, closed the Albatross, and subjected her to a heavy 
bombardment until the Martin came up and started firing. 
This caused the submarine to direct her fire on the Martin. 
She used both guns, the projectiles falling close around 
both these trawlers. The seventeenth round from the 
Albatross appeared to strike the enemy craft forward. 
The submarine then made a black smoke-screen, turned 
end on, and still firing from the after gun, made off quickly 
to the eastward and was lost sight of about 9.40 p.m. 
Next day, not far from that locality, a submarine, with 
one gun, was sighted with her wireless masts up. This 
was at 2.30 a.m., but when the unit closed her she 
made off to the eastward and, when shells from the 
Martin, Consort, and Editor began to fall around her, 
she submerged. 

Four days later another Peterhead unit, consisting of 
the armed trawlers Onward, Nellie Nutten, and Era, fought 
a most gallant fight, a fight against overwhelming strength 
which ended disastrously. It was, however, a fishermen's 
battle that will certainly be long remembered. These 
three trawlers were but poorly armed ; the Onward had 
a 12-pounder gun, the other two had one 3-pomider gun 
apiece. Events suggested that the enemy had been mak- 
ing a concentration in order to wipe out these Peterhead 
trawlers which had shown such complete disrespect for the 
superior armed submarines, causing them to seek flight 
when encountered separately. For on July 11th, at a 
quarter-past five in the afternoon, when about 120 miles 
east-south-east of Girdleness, the OnrL'ard( Lieutenant Claude 
Asquith, R.N.R.), leader of the unit, hoisted her signal 
that a submarine was in sight. Thereupon the Nellie 
Nutten (Skipper C. Angus) bore down towards his leader. 
The Onward had already opened fire, and now the Nellie 
Nutten began, but after firing a considerable time, her 
little 3-pounder being utterly outranged by the enemy, 
she saw a second submarine approaching from the north- 
east and a third coming up from the south-east. The 
Onward then altered course to port and the Nellie Nutten 
to starboard. 

The three submarines, which were now keeping to port 
and starboard of the unit, maintained a fire at long range. 
After proceeding in a west -south-westerly direction for an 
hour, the Nellie Nutten received a shot through her stern 


and the next shot disabled her altogether. In the distance 
the Era was seen to be on fire with a couple of submarines 
alongside her. Owing to the long range, all three trawlers 
had been firing at the enemy without effect, and the 
action was rapidly coming to its inevitable conclusion. 
Finding herself in a helpless condition, the Xellie Nutten 
steered towards a Dutch lugger, and just as the maimed 
trawler sank, all the crew jumped overboard and were 
picked up by the Dutchman. When last seen the Onward 
was obviously out of control and in flames. The Era, too, 
had been sunk, but all three had made an heroic fight. 
The Dutch lugger (the Doggerbank of Scheveningen) 
brought the Nellie Nutten into Aberdeen. The Dutch 
skipper stated that four German submarines, painted grey, 
and each armed with two guns, had been engaged ; and 
that they opened fire on the trawlers at a distance of three 
miles. Not even this exhibition on the part of the enemy 
kept the Peterhead patrols from performing their duty, 
though they thought that their craft should have been 
better armed. Admiral Jellicoe suggested that this should 
be remedied and, as a result, fifty-seven 12-pounder guns 
were forthwith supplied to East Coast trawlers. 

Of the Nellie Nutten' s crew eleven were saved ; the chief 
engineer was killed, and one trimmer seriously wounded. 
One of the " hands " was also wounded. The whole of the 
Onward's crew, numbering sixteen, were taken prisoners, 
including Lieutenant Asquith, who was awarded the D.S.C. 
for his gallantry during the action. It was evident that 
in chasing the first submarine he was led into the vicinity 
of the other three and completely outmatched. Skipper 
Angus was commended for the skilful and seamanlike 
manner in which he had manoeuvred his ship when dis- 
abled, thus saving practically all his ship's company. 
The whole of the Era's crew were taken prisoners. In 
peace-time, both she and the Onward belonged to Hull ; 
the Nellie Nutten was a Grimsby trawler before the war. 
It is now possible to state that the four submarines were 
U46, U49, U52, and U69. Of these four U69 was sunk 
just a year later — on July 12th, 1917 — by H.M.S. Patriot ; 
U49 was sunk by the steamship British Transport on 
September 11th, 1917 ; and the other two surrendered 
at Harwich in November 1918. 

At the time when the enemy was sinking the Scotch 


drifters off the Tyne, another submarine — from Flanders — 
was operating off Lowestoft. This was UClO. A little 
before midnight on July 6th a small motor-boat named 
the Salmon, under the command of Sub-Lieutenant E. T. 
West, R.N.V.R., was on patrol off Lowestoft. The 
Salmon was not a M.L., but a day-boat without a cabin. 
She was 40 feet long with 8-foot beam, with a cockpit aft 
and a certain amount of space forward of the engine-room 
where a couple of men could turn in. She had, however, 
a very powerful Stirling motor, developing 135 h.p., which 
gave her a speed of 20 knots. The Salmon was one of 
six boats which had been presented to the Admiralty by 
Mr. Cochrane, an American yachtsman, who had formerly 
owned the celebrated schooner Westward. The Salmon 
was a comparatively new boat, having been built in 1915. 
To many it might have seemed that such a frail boat could 
scarcely expect to be of much use in a naval war. How- 
ever, there were many things which had to be unlearned 
during those fateful years, and this was another instance. 
At this period the Salmon was on the lookout for a 
submarine, which was suspected of being near the " War 
Channel." For about an hour she kept hearing buzzing 
sounds at intervals on her hydrophones. At 1.30 a.m. 
(July 7th) the buzzing recommenced. It was apparently 
much nearer and was rapidly approaching, the sound 
resembling that of a dynamo running. Within a few 
minutes it seemed to be right under the boat, so the Salmon 
put her engines full speed ahead and dropped a depth 
charge, which exploded. Almost immediately a much 
more violent explosion followed, throwing up a column 
of water 50 feet high. A large number of bubbles came 
to the surface together with wreckage, consisting of pieces 
of wood painted white and a grating. A strong smell of 
gas was also noticed. What had happened was that the 
mine-laying UClO had been bombed and her own mines 
had then exploded. She and her crew were thus prevented 
from doing further damage to merchant shipping. 

Determined to deal British fishing-craft a heavy blow 
before the autumn, Germany made a heavy submarine 
raid on the fleets on September 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 1916. 
On September 23rd there was an airship raid on the East 
Coast and London involving serious casualties, and on the 
morning of that day, about 10.30, began the East Coast 


fishing-raid which resulted in the destruction of thirty- 
craft, a disaster involving a financial loss, to speak of no 
other, of £100,000. This raid resolved itself into two 
periods. The first was from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. of 
September 23rd, during which fishing-vessels were sunk 
in an area from thirty to sixty-five miles south-east of the 
Humber. There followed an interval during the night, 
which was apparently occupied by the submarine steering 
northwards up the Yorkshire coast, but a good way oft 
the land. The second period began on September 24th 
at 8 a.m. and closed at 11 a.m. on the following day. At 
8.30 p.m. on the former day the enemy craft captured 
the steam fishing-trawler Fisher Prince, belonging to 
Scarborough, the capture taking place about twenty miles 
to the north-east of that port. A German lieutenant and 
a prize crew of eight men then boarded her, and the two 
cruised in company. A number of other fishing-craft 
were captured, including the Scarborough steam fishing- 
trawler Otter, the crew being put aboard the Fisher Prince. 
The submarine continued to sink other craft until 9.50 a.m., 
when the Norwegian s.s. Tromp came in sight and was 
stopped. All the fishing crews were put aboard the Nor- 
wegian vessel, and the Fisher Prince was sunk, together 
with the trawler Seal. 

In a period of forty-eight hours the raid had taken 
place over an area between sixty-five miles S.E. by E. 
of the Humber and thirty-three miles E. by S. of Hartle- 
pool. It is true that on the night of September 24th, 
whilst escorting a drifter fleet, the trawler Rigoletto 
heard heavy firing to the eastward, but she rightly decided 
that her first duty was to stand by her own craft and she 
refused to be enticed away. It was, indeed, fortunate 
for the enemy that no destroyers or patrol-craft had been 
met with, but the misty weather, so typical of the month 
of September, had assisted him greatly. The whole situa- 
tion from the British point of view was most difficult. 
So many patrol-vessels were required now for protecting 
fishing- fleets, for patrolling on the lookout for lurking sub- 
marines, for convoying merchant ships, for sweeping up 
mines, and for various special services, that it was quite 
impossible to prevent these raids occurring now and again. 
To be strong at every point was not practicable, any more 
than the Grand Fleet could prevent the coast from being 


bombarded by German battle-cruisers occasionally. The 

most that could be done was not to allow the enemy, by 

his exasperating pin-pricks, to upset the general strategic 

scheme. Men and ships were being overworked, there 

was another long, trying winter just beginning, the 

conditions on the various fronts were not too favourable, 

but satisfaction was to be extracted from the knowledge 

that we were grappling with the submarine menace. 

Enemy craft were being sunk now by all sorts of Auxiliary 

Patrol vessels, and the depth charges and hydrophones 

were revealing their usefulness. At the Admiralty fresh 

schemes were being adopted for intensifying the war 

against submarines. Fishermen and yachtsmen and men 

of the Mercantile Marine were showing that they could be 

depended upon in all emergencies to exhibit undaunted 

spirit. Fishermen, too old to fight, whose sons and brothers 

and sons-in-law were either serving afloat or in the trenches, 

refused to be frightened off the sea even when their ships 

were taken from them. With this fine British courage 

animating all ranks and ratings there was ground for 




Some details have been given of the evolution of the 
Dover barrage, with its mines, its mine-nets, and its 
system of buoys. It was patrolled by drifters, and each 
Drifter Division was commanded by a Lieutenant R.N.R. 
Owing to the shortage of guns at the period, most of these 
drifters were unarmed, and none had wireless telegraphy, 
but they were supported by armed yachts and trawlers. 
Towards the end of October 1916 a German flotilla of 
destroyers reached Zeebrugge to reinforce the Flanders 
flotillas. On the night of the 26th-27th these destroyers 
made a raid on the Dover Straits, which had a serious 
effect on the drifters. Between Buoys OA and 20A were 
disposed the eight, tenth, sixteenth, and twelfth divisions 
of Dover drifters, a total of twenty-three craft. They 
were supported by the trawler H. E. Stroud, armed with a 
3-pounder and fitted with wireless ; by the armed yacht 
Ombra, armed with a couple of 3-pounders ; and by the 
M.L. 103 and M.L. 252, each of wliich had a 13-pounder 
Of the twenty-three drifters five alone were armed, each 
with a 3-pounder. The barrage was, therefore, held en- 
tirely by Auxiliary Patrol vessels, the destroyer forces 
being required to defend the Downs and to protect Dunkirk, 
an essential reserve force remaining in Dover Harbour for 

The night of October 26th-27th was very dark, and it 
was just half an hour before high water in Dover Straits 
when suddenly the Tenth Drifter Division, at ten minutes 
past ten, sighted destroyers coming up astern, steering 
about west-north-west and parallel with the barrage. The 
first four destroyers passed close to the leader of the Drifter 
Division. The drifters made the challenge and fired a 
couple of rifle shots at them, but the four destroyers passed 
on without reply. But immediately astern came more 



German destroyers, which opened fire on the Tenth Drifter 
Division, hitting all the drifters except one, which made off 
to the north-west. The drifters Spotless Prince, Datum, 
and Gleaner of the Sea were sunk, and the Waveney set on 
fire. Later on the Waveney, shattered by shell-fire and a 
mere derelict, was towed into the Downs, but owing to 
bad weather coming on could not be salved. 

At about 11.10 p.m. the next attack occurred. This 
was directed against the Eighth Drifter Division, which 
was off the west end of the barrage. Of these six, the 
Rohiirn was sunk and the Pleasants damaged ; the rest 
escaped towards the Goodwins, their leader firing several 
rockets to give the alarm. Meanwhile the armed yacht 
Ombra sent wireless signals into Dover and proceeded 
to get into touch with the Sixteenth Drifter Division, 
which she ordered into Dover. But shortly afterwards — 
about 11.15 p.m. — this division ran into the enemy, with 
the result that the two drifters Ajax and Launch Out 
were sunk, and the E.B.C. damaged. The Fifteenth 
Division was not attacked. The transport Queen hap- 
pened to be on her way at this time from Boulogne, and 
three of the German destroyers came up on her starboard 
and another three on her port side, made her stop, boarded 
her, destroyed herwireless, and caused herto be abandoned, 
eventually shelling her so that she sank. 

The entire German force had consisted probably of 
eleven destroyers, which when near the north-east end 
of the barrage had separated into two divisions. Both 
divisions appear to have found the east end of the net 
barrage, which at this date extended no farther east than 
the Ruytingen Shoal. One division of five destroyers 
then proceeded south-west towards Grisnez, the other 
going towards Dover. The first division boarded the 
Queen, and the second attacked the Tenth and Eighth 
Drifter Divisions, then turned east and met the Sixteenth 
Division and went off to the north-east. The Ombra' s 
signal at 10.30 p.m. caused Admiral Bacon to send out six 
of the Tribal class of destroyers from Dover. Of these 
six, the Nubian fell in with five German destroyers who 
at short range shelled the Nubian's port side. In vain 
the Nubian attempted to ram the last ship of the enemy's 
line, but was torpedoed and caught on fire. Another of 
the Dover destroyers, the Amazon, was struck in the 




boiler-room by a shell, and a third, the Mohawk, was hit 
so that her helm jambed. 

As for the trawler H. E. Stroud, she had been ordered 
by wireless to send into Dover all drifters and M.L.s, and 
was proceeding at full speed to carry out these orders when 
she met four German destroyers, each enemy craft giving 
the trawler one round in passing. The H. E. Stroud's 
commanding officer. Lieutenant J. R. McClory, R.N.R., 
was killed, as well as the helmsman, two of the crew were 
wounded and the bridge wrecked. Six drifters had been 
sunk, three severely damaged, fifty-five officers and men 
killed or missing, and five wounded. Such was the toll 
of the enemy's night raid ! Of these fifty-five seamen, ten 
were subsequently found to have been taken prisoners. 
It was a heavy blow ; nevertheless the sudden fierce 
onslaught, devastating as it had been, in no way dis- 
heartened the fishermen crews of the Dover drifters. The 
most formidable weapon which most of these ships pos- 
sessed was a rifle with a few rounds of ammunition, but in 
spite of this disability for a contest against modern de- 
stroyers the men were undaunted. A report got about in 
Dover that in future the drifters would not care about 
watching their nets at night. Thereupon the drifter 
skippers. Admiral Bacon has recorded, went in a body to 
the Captain of the Dover Patrol and stated that, so far 
from not liking to do night patrolling, they were ready, 
should the Admiral wish it, to lay their nets and watch 
them off Zeebrugge. 

" I have already had occasion," wrote the Admiral to 
the Admiralty a few days after this raid, " to call Their 
Lordships' attention to the steady courage and gallantry 
with which the men of our little auxiliaries constantly 
face dangerous positions and difficult situations. The 
conduct on Thursday night was again a brilliant example." 

About a month later, on the night of November 23rd, 
the enemy, doubtless pleased by his success against the 
drifters, essayed another raid on the Straits. It was 
about an hour after high water, there was a south-westerly 
breeze with mist and slight rain when, at 10.40 p.m., six 
German destroyers appeared at the northern approach 
to the Downs, where they were sighted by the armed 


drifters, who were based on Ramsgate. These craft, with 
a 6-pounder each, performed the duty of guarding the 
area from the North Foreland to the North Goodwin 
Lightship. A division of Dover destroyers was also 
anchored in the Downs ready for an emergency. The 
enemy appear to have come on a south-easterly course 
from a little distance off Broadstairs to between the 
north-eastern edge of the Downs and North Goodwin 
Lightship. They were sighted at 10.50 p.m., when a mile 
north-east of the Broadstairs Knoll buoy, by the drifter 
Acceptable (Sub-Lieutenant W. F. Fitzgerald, R.N.R.). 
The enemy passed under the AcceytabW s stern only a 
hundred and fifty yards away, and the last destroyer fired. 
So the Acceptable went full speed ahead to the north-west 
to get clear, but her starboard sidelight and stern light 
were blown away by the enemy's ten rounds, which 
smashed the dinghy, damaged the mast, the gallery and 
engine-room casing, though fortunately there were no 
casualties. The drifter Buckler was also fired on. The 
Acceptable sent in a message by her wireless, but, the 
alarm having been raised by the drifters and a warning 
rocket fired, the Germans realised that their plan had 
miscarried and that it would be useless for them to try 
and break through the Straits that night. They therefore 
decided to retire before the Downs destroyers could arrive 
on the spot. Thus the raid was futile, though the enemy 
claimed to have bombarded Ramsgate. It may be added 
that no shots fell on shore. 

Thus the work of the Auxiliary Patrol went on through 
another winter. More and still more trawlers were 
required, and the demand was never completely met. 
New trawlers were being requisitioned as quickly as they 
were built, but what with the sinking from mines, sub- 
marines, and the ordinary perils of the sea, there was little 
or no surplus after losses had been made good. In Decem- 
ber 1916 began the system of protected sailings for the 
Scandinavian ships, whose cargoes were so essential at 
this critical period. These vessels would have refused to 
cross the North Sea but for protection, and this had to be 
afforded by vessels of the Shetlands Auxiliary Patrol Area. 
Owing to the demands on trawlers for mine -sweeping and 
for patrolling the Fair Island passage (a regular highway 
for U-boats) and for various other reasons, there remained 


few trawlers available for a regular escorting system. 
The result was that the dispositions of the vessels of the 
Auxiliary Patrol in both the Shetlands and Orkneys areas 
had to be reorganised in February 1917 so that trawlers 
and whalers might be available to escort neutral traffic for 
Scandinavia to three selected rendezvous midway between 
the Shetlands and Norway. The German response to this 
arrangement was to concentrate their submarines off the 
entrances to Norwegian ports. Finally, in April 1917, an 
escort of destroyers had to be provided right up to Nor- 
wegian territorial waters so as further to ensure the safety 
of merchant shipping. 

By December 1916 the peril arising from the destruction 
brought about by the U-boats had attained such magnitude 
that the Admiralty were driven to creating a special depart- 
ment called the Anti-submarine Division to co-ordinate 
existing measures and devise new ones for combating 
the enemy's campaign. At the head of this section of the 
naval staff was placed Admiral A. L, Duff. Among other 
things this organisation sought to increase the supplies 
of depth-charges, develop the hydrophone, arm defensively 
the whole Mercantile Marine, and provide ships with 
trained guns' crews ; to extend the supply and use of 
smoke-screen apparatus ; to concentrate the patrols on 
the traffic routes and reorganise the work of the Auxiliary 
Patrol throughout all the areas on one system ; and later 
to institute the convoy system. Admiral Duff recognised 
that the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol had so well pro- 
tected merchant shipping on coastwise passage and 
approaching bases that the U-boat had now found it more 
profitable to operate outside the normal patrol limits. In 
the northern part of the North Sea, for instance, enemy 
submarines no longer approached close to the coast, except 
for mine-laying and to waylay crippled ships returning 
to their bases after a Fleet action. Trade in the English 
Channel was confined to a route passing close to the coast, 
guarded by these patrol -vessels, and the crossing of the 
English Channel was limited to the hours of darkness. 
From Queenstown Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly reported that 
" an immense quantity of traffic to and from the English 
Channel, Bristol Channel, and Irish Sea is now passing 
along the south coast of Ireland." 

Everywhere round the coasts the trawlers and yachts, 


the drifters and M.L.s, the paddlers and other craft were 

hard at it patrolling, sweeping, convoying, salving, and 

doing a multitude of jobs throughout the third winter of 

the war. Whilst the small craft and their crews were 

doing all that could be done, scientific minds on shore 

were seeking to devise or improve anti-submarine methods. 

This meant a series of experiments, which in turn meant 

months of delay before the Auxiliary Patrol could avail 

themselves of such aids. While in the Mediterranean and 

Adriatic the patrols were toiling with their peculiar phase 

of the submarine problem, each area of the British Isles 

was using its scant forces as best it could. Irish waters, 

by reason of the approaches to our western ports being 

so tempting a bait, were being patrolled by sloops and 

trawlers, drifters, an armed yacht or two, flotillas of M.L.s, 

and decoy-ships. The English Channel, in view of its 

contiguity to France, presented special difficulties. From 

Le Havre worked six armed trawlers, four mine-sweeping 

trawlers, and twenty-six net drifters. The last named 

were eventually based on Trouville and rode to their nets 

on the flank of the transport channel off the entrance to 

Le Havre. In the North Sea the routine was adapted to 

the special needs. Grimsby mine-sw'eepers, for example, 

were always at sea sweeping the " War Channel " from the 

Spurn to Whitby. Every day the paddlers swept the 

Humber, its approaches, and the Inner Dowsing Channel. 

Armed trawlers were patrolling from Scarborough to the 

Haisborough ; net drifters with their nets were ten miles 

seaward of Flamborough to harass submarines making 

their land-fall thereabout ; south of Flamborough head 

and north of Cromer other armed trawlers were stationed 

to look out for Zeppelins, and M.L.s were off the Spm-n 

doing their patrol and regulating traffic. 

The year 1917 did not open auspiciously for us. 
Almost as soon as it began a submarine sank by gun- 
fire six fishing-smacks and one Ostend trawler off Trevose 
Head, Cornwall, and two more smacks were sunk a couple 
of days later. Off the north-east English coast the enemy 
still made his assaults on our fishing -fleets and on individual 
trawlers. Food in the British Isles, but more particularly 
in Great Britain, was beginning to get scarce, and the 
importance of fish was increasingly realised day by day. 
The Germans w^ere not unconscious of the fact and devoted 


a good deal of attention to the trawlers, whether commis- 
sioned units of His Majesty's Navy or peaceful harvesters 
of the sea. In the forenoon of January 28th the fishing 
steam-trawler Alexandra was homeward bound with her 
cargo of fish and in another five or six hours was expecting 
to make the land. When she was about sixty miles east 
of the Longstone, UC32 stopped her, took her skipper 
prisoner, placed the rest of the fishing crew on board a 
neutral ship and, having sunk the Alexandra, went on 
her way. A few hours later this submarine sighted a few 
more trawlers at their work, amongst them being the 
Thistle, Petrel, and Mayfly. She waited until daylight and 
then came close to the PetreVs boat, ordered it alongside, 
and put Warrant Officer Bernhard Haack into it with 
some bombs, a revolver, and a bandolier. UC32 proceeded 
to sink the Thistle, while Haack was rowed off towards the 
Mayfly two miles to the south-east in order to sink her 
with his explosives. In this plan he never succeeded ; for 
with dramatic suddenness there now appeared on the scene 
the armed trawler Speedwell. The submarine opened fire, 
and the Speedwell replied vigorously. This was too much 
for the enemy craft, which hurriedly dived with a heavy 
list, due, no doubt, to having put her helm hard over. 
This left Warrant Officer Haack in a most ridiculous 
plight ! He had a bag full of bombs, but his ship had gone 
without him, and he was left among a lot of trawlermen 
whose affection he had scarcely won. With Teutonic 
impudence he requested the trawler skippers to put him 
on board a certain Scandinavian steamer which was in 
sight. Needless to say this request was not granted. He 
was taken below on board one of the trawlers, desperately 
perturbed as to what fate awaited him, a hearty North Sea 
skipper following behind him. Then, abandoning his 
bombs, his revolver, and his bandolier to the Thistle's 
skipper, he became the prisoner instead of the captor. At 
four in the afternoon he was handed over to a patrol-boat. 
His fate was indeed a fortunate one, for about a month 
later UC32 came to her end and her crew was destroyed 
with her. 




At the beginning of 1916 controversy still raged in Ger- 
many as to the advisability of employing submarines 
against commerce, not only in the Mediterranean, but 
in British waters, alike ignoring the rules the German 
Government had promised to observe and the protests 
of neutrals. The torpedoing under peculiarly dis- 
tressing circumstances of the Italian liner Ancona on 
November 7th by a submarine flying the Austrian flag 
had again roused widespread indignation. In the closing 
months of 1915 Admiral Bachmann had been succeeded 
as Chief of the Naval Staff by Admiral von Holtzendorf, 
who busied himself preparing a series of memoranda, 
insisting on the necessity of unrestricted submarine opera- 
tions. On February 1st he assured Admiral Scheer, Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the High Seas Fleet, that the unre- 
stricted U-boat campaign would be inaugurated on March 
1st. The Germans had been watching the development of 
British policy of arming merchant ships, and on February 
10th the Germans sent a Note to the United States stating 
that defensively armed merchant ships would from March 
1st be regarded as warships. The argument was quite 
unsound. For centuries trading ships have always had 
the right to arm in their own defence without changing 
their status as merchantmen, and when the German Note 
was presented there was not a government in the world 
which would have endorsed its reasoning. British armed 
liners were at this time visiting the ports of every neutral 
country in the world, and in no case were they treated like 
warships. The United States Government a fortnight 
later informed Germany that she would not in any way 



abrogate the right of American citizens in the matter of 
traveUing by sea. 

The German Emperor, as well as the Chancellor, still 
entertained doubts as to the wisdom of the course which it 
was proposed to adopt, but in the meantime, as events 
were to show, the submarine commanders were themselves 
taking action at sea. Early in March a meeting was held 
at General Headquarters, and, in spite of all the pressure 
exerted by the naval authorities, decisive action was post- 
poned. Admiral von Tirpitz was ignored by the Emperor 
during this crisis, and a few days later resigned and was 
succeeded by Admiral von Capelle. 

The month of January had proved a disappointing one 
for the enemy's submarines in the Mediterranean, and 
February was little better, but the Germans found some 
consolation in the early captures which were made by 
the Mowe off Finisterre. Only four ships besides the 
Coquet were sunk by enemy submarines during January. 
Among these was the steamer Marere (6,443 tons). She 
had been given a 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun, and when a 
submarine was observed on the morning of January 18th 
the master (Mr. P. E. Mello) determined to make a fight for 
his ship. Malta, the nearest landfall, was 236 miles dis- 
tant. As soon as the enemy was sighted, course was 
altered to bring the submarine astern ; all hands were 
called to their stations ; the gun was manned ; instructions 
were given for the highest possible speed, and a wireless 
call for assistance was dispatched. Within about a 
quarter of an hour an answering signal was received from 
Malta. After the position and course of the Marere had 
been given, the following reply came : " If you fire you 
will compel him to dive and you will be safe, as his speed 
under water is small : you must not surrender." Captain 
Mello was soon compelled to put this advice to the test. 

The submarine had been gaining upon him, and at 
length dropped a shell one hundred yards astern. The 
Marere replied immediately with her little gun, but, owing 
to the superior armament of the enemy, the duel was 
hopeless. The 3-pounder shells fell far short of the enemy, 
who maintained a continuous fire. His shells fell all round 
the merchantman and sent spray over the bridge and 
deck, but failed to hit her. Immediately the Marere's 
first shot had been fired, it was noticed that the bolts 


holding down the Hotchkiss gun were beginning to give. 
Under this handicap, the Marine gunners fired about ten 
rounds at the extreme range. With each shot the stability 
of the gun became worse, and not a single projectile 
dropped anywhere near the enemy. At last the corporal 
reported to Captain Mello that the gun was out of action, 
and at that moment the ship was struck. Nothing more 
could be done, so the boats were ordered out and every 
preparation was made to abandon ship. During the few 
anxious minutes w^hich followed, shells continued to fall 
on the doomed steamer. " On observing the boats pull 
away," Captain Mello afterwards stated, "the submarine 
fired several rounds at the boats, fortunately missing." 

The hospital ship Neuralia had by this time come upon 
the scene, and the loaded boats turned towards her, while 
the submarine, having fired two torpedoes, both of which 
missed, dived out of sight. The enemy, however, soon 
reappeared and fire was again opened on the Marere, which 
was down by the head and listing badly when last seen by 
her crew. The loss of this ship revealed the ineffectiveness 
of the 3-pounder gun when opposed by a well-handled 
submarine, carrying a more powerful armament. To make 
matters worse, this particular 3-pounder had, as events 
showed, a defective mounting. In contrast with the fate 
of the Marere, seven other defensively armed ships suc- 
ceeded during January in effecting their escape from 
submarines. By this time an increasing number of mer- 
chant ships had been provided with guns, and experience 
was showing that an armament, if sufficiently powerful, 
was of considerable value, apart from its psychological 
influence in giving confidence to the merchant seamen 
when suddenly attacked by submarines. 

The loss of shipping from the submarine campaign was 
again comparatively light in the month of February ; seven 
vessels, of 24,059 tons, were sunk with a loss of thirty- 
four lives, as compared with five, of 27,974 tons, in the 
preceding month, when the death-roll was twenty-eight. 
The activities of the enemy raider Mowe, in association 
with sinkings on mines and the destruction of a small 
vessel off the Kentish Knock by a Zeppelin, raised the 
casualties to twenty-six ships, of 75,860 tons, and the 
death-roll leapt up to 291. For this sudden upward 
movement, the destruction of the Maloja (12,431 tons) 


by a mine two miles south from Dover Pier, with a casualty- 
list of 122, was mainly responsible. The Empress of Fort 
William (2,181 tons) and the Thornaby (1,732 tons) met a 
similar fate, the master of the latter ship, as well as eighteen 
of his crew, being killed. 

The manner in which merchant seamen were adapting 
the laws of the brotherhood of the sea to the novel and 
unnerving situation which confronted them was illustrated 
by the plucky action of the master (Mr. R. Buckley) of 
the small steamship Cedarwood (654 tons). With a crew 
of twelve hands he was creeping down the East Coast on 
February 12th with a cargo of pig iron consigned to a 
French port, and had reached a position off Aldeburgh 
Napes when his eye lighted on a mine, which gleamed 
bright red with the rise and fall of the sea. The wind was 
high and the choppy sea revealed and hid it from time to 
time. Was this evidence of the existence of an enemy 
mine-field ? Captain Buckley decided that, if he erred, 
it should be on the safe side. Over a dozen other ships 
were following in his track, so he hoisted signal flags to 
warn them of submarine mines and also had his steam 
whistle sounded. Furthermore, he kept the Cedarwood 
steaming round the mine he had discovered in the con- 
fident expectation that a patrol-boat would come on the 
scene and destroy it. 

In saving the other ships he sealed the fate of the 
Cedarwood. For suddenly there was an explosion : 
the fore end of his vessel rose in the air and the 
upper bridge, on which he was standing with the mate, 
seemed to fall away from under his feet, and he found 
himself in the water, clinging to the flagstaff on the stern 
of the Cedarwood. He must have been carried right aft by 
the force of the water. He was sucked beneath the waves, 
but when he reached the surface again managed to reach 
a hatch which was floating near at hand. Several members 
of the crew had also secured pieces of wreckage, and 
eventually six survivors were rescued by boats of the 
Binavor, which, very fortuitously, reached them before 
they had succumbed to the cold and exposure. Captain 
Buckley's prompt signals were probably the means of sav- 
ing several of the ships astern of him from destruction, 
and in recognition of his thoughtful action he was pre- 
sented with a gold watch by the London Group of War 


Risk Associations. So much for the mine-fields, which 
in this month, as has been stated, were responsible for the 
loss of a good deal of merchant shipping ; but, so far as 
the submarine campaign was concerned, February was 
a poor month for the enemy. 

One incident in the month, however, stands out from 
the official records — the destruction of the Franz Fischer 
(970 tons) by a Zeppelin south of the Kentish Knock. 
It was the first success achieved by an airship operating 
against a merchant vessel. This little ship — an ex-German 
collier — ^was making her way from Hartlepool to Cowes, 
when on the evening of February 1st, which was very 
dark, the master was warned by a patrol-boat that there 
were mines ahead of him. So, as it was difficult to see 
anything, he decided to anchor for the night. The engines 
had been stopped by 10 o'clock and the Franz Fischer 
anchored about eight miles north of the Kentish Knock, 
where a number of other ships were already lying. The 
chief engineer (Mr. J. H. Birch), having pumped up liis 
boilers, closed all connections. Satisfied that everytliing 
was snug for the night, he joined the captain in his 
cabin and there the two seamen sat talking. Suddenly 
a noise was heard overhead, wliich it was at first thought 
proceeded from an aeroplane. It gradually increased. 
As one of the able seamen remarked afterwards, " The 
sound was like several express trains crossing a bridge 

The noise attracted the attention of the two officers 
in the cabin, and then the mate, who had come off 
the bridge, knocked against the bulkhead and asked the 
captain if he had heard the strange sounds. " Yes ; what 
is it ? " was the reply. The mate did not hazard an 
opinion, but as the noise increased the master decided to 
go himself on deck and see what was happening. So, 
followed by the chief engineer, he left the cabin, but by 
that time silence reigned once more. The Zeppelin had 
evidently stopped her engines in order to take a sitting 
shot. Then a violent explosion occurred, due to a bomb 
which had hit the Frariz Fischer amidships on the port 
side. The master and his companion were knocked down 
by a column of water which fell upon them, but shortly 
afterwards they succeeded in reaching the bridge deck. 
The ship had been shaken from end to end, but nothing 


suggested that she had been mortally injured. Neverthe- 
less, the chief engineer called the men up from below, and 
in a few minutes the hands — all, except those who had 
been on watch, practically naked — had assembled by the 
boats. The boats were got out, but some difficulty was 
experienced in cutting away the falls. A man ran to the 
galley for a knife, but before he returned the ship turned 
over on her port side and went down by her head " like a 
stone," everyone being flung into the water. 

Owing to the suddenness of the emergency and the 
darkness, it seemed as though the whole crew must be 
drowned, and there were indeed only three survivors. 
When the chief engineer rose to the surf ace, his eyes, piercing 
the darkness, fell on a lifebelt box, which had usually 
stood on the bridge ; it was floating not far away. He 
swam towards it and fomid temporary safety. He was 
joined on this piece of wreckage by other members of the 
crew, until there were no fewer than eight of them, in- 
cluding the second mate, hanging on for very life. Some 
of the men endeavoured to climb on to the top of the box, 
with the result that it rolled over. This experience was 
repeated several times, and each time one or more of the 
men were missing. At last the chief engineer decided to 
seek some surer means of safety and he swam towards a 
lifebelt. He secured it, put it around him as best he 
could and, with this aid, swimming a little now and again, 
he managed to keep afloat. He afterwards lost conscious- 
ness, and when he recovered found that he was in a life- 
boat belonging to the Belgian steamer Paul. 

In the meantime, the desperate men clinging to the 
lifebelt box dropped off one after the other until only Able 
Seaman Hillier and the donkey-man remained. They 
were in the last stages of exhaustion, and at last Hillier 
alone remained. Fortunately the PauVs boat reached him 
just in time. It was not known until afterwards that the 
Paul had been lying at anchor about a mile away from 
the Franz Fischer when the bomb exploded on the latter 
ship. As soon as the cries for help from the distressed 
seamen struggling in the water were heard, the Paul 
tried to heave her anchor, but without success. A boat 
was then lowered and put out into the pitchy darkness. 
Cries could be heard, but it was impossible to see anj'thing. 
But at length the Belgians came across the only three 


siirvivors^ — the able seaman desperately clinging to the box, 
the chief engineer, looking as though he were already dead, 
and the steward, who had also kept himself afloat by means 
of a lifebelt, in the last stages of collapse. The troubles 
of these unfortunate men were not yet ended. For the 
boat, manned by the mate, the boatswain, a seaman and 
a fireman of the Paid, was carried out to sea by the tide. 
Signals convinced the master that the boat could make no 
headway against the current, and at last, despite a series 
of mishaps, he got under way. It was still very dark, 
and not until three hours had passed did he succeed in 
picking up the boat. By that time the three men of the 
Franz Fischer appeared more dead than alive, but warm 
drinks and food soon enabled them to recover. 

As a footnote to this record of the end of the Franz 
Fischer, it is interesting to recall the sequence of events. 
On January 31st the enemy had carried out an airship raid 
on England, penetrating farther westward than ever 
before ; on the succeeding day one of the airships — the 
Ll9, as was afterwards learnt — had destroyed the Franz 
Fischer with a loss of thirteen lives, including the master ; 
and early on the morning of February 2nd the Ll9 herself, 
a miserable tangle of wreckage, foundered in the North 
Sea. In this way retribution was exacted for the heavy 
loss of life which resulted from the raid on shore and the 
bombing of the defenceless Franz Fischer. 

The capture of the Teutonian (4,824 tons) by a sub- 
marine, March 4th, was the first evidence that the sub- 
marine campaign in home waters was being resumed by 
the German naval authorities, despite the hesitation of the 
Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor. This vessel (master, 
Mr. R. D. Collins) was on voyage from Sabine, Newport 
News, to Avonmouth. All had gone well until the morning 
of the 4th. She was then thirty-six miles S.W. by W. of 
the Fastnet when the officer on the bridge reported a sub- 
marine on the starboard quarter. Judging by the widely 
advertised orders of the German Government no attack 
was to be expected, but Captain Collins rang for " Full 
speed ahead." Thus a chase began, for the submarine 
gradually overhauled the merchantman. The enemy 
fired three shots, and in response to this warning the engines 
of the Teutonian were stopped. The submarine, after 
taking up a position on the port beam, forthwith sub- 


merged, and without more ado, fired a torpedo which 
struck the vessel forward. Fortunately the master had 
already ordered the crew into the boats, and as soon as 
he realised that his vessel was doomed, he himself slid down 
the ship's side into the water and swam towards one of 
the boats, which took him on board. The submarine re- 
appeared on the surface and fired thirty-six shells, which 
caused the Teutonian to burst into flames, which burnt 
fiercely until she sank a little short of three and a half hours 
from the opening of the attack. By a happy chance a patrol- 
boat soon came on the scene and rescued the crew, landing 
them in due course at Berehaven, so no one was much the 
worse for the adventure, though everyone lost all his 
belongings and the ship had disappeared. 

In thus wise the submarine campaign in British waters 
was reopened, despite restraining influences in Germany, 
from the Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor downwards. 
As the experience of the Teutonian had revealed, the 
enemy commanders had determined to treat prize law with 
contempt and to sink merchant vessels out of hand wherever 
they were encountered, without regard for the safety of 
the crews on board. On the following day the Rothesay 
(2,007 tons) was torpedoed thirty miles from the Bishop 
Rock ; on the 8th the Harmatres (6,387 tons) was destroyed 
without warning near Boulogne breakwater, four men 
being killed ; on the 16th the little saihng-vessel Willie 
(185 tons) was sunk by gunfire off the Fastnet ; two days 
later the Lowlands (1,789 tons) was torpedoed without 
warning of any kind eight miles N.E. by E. from the 
North Foreland, and then occurred the sinking of the 
Port Dalhousie (1,744 tons), with the loss of eleven of her 
crew, as well as the master. This vessel was on her way 
from Middlesbrough to Nantes, and on the advice of the 
pilot, who had come on board at Yarmouth, the master 
dropped anchor on the evening of March 18th about two 
miles N. by E. from the Kentish Knock Light-vessel. 
Shortly after midnight she was torpedoed. In the words 
of the chief officer (Mr. W. F, Spurr) : 

" The Port Dalhousie was lying to her anchor, the sea 
watch being continued, when a loud hissing was heard 
by me and I looked to see what it was caused by. Almost 
immediately the ship was struck by, I believe, a torpedo 


amidships on the port side. She sank within one minute. 
Only myself, three seamen, and two firemen were saved by 
jumping into the water or being washed off the deck as 
the ship submerged and then seizing floating hatches. 
We were in the water one and three-quarter hours, and 
were rescued by the steamer Jessie and transferred to a 
patrol-boat and landed at Ramsgate at 11 p.m. yesterday 
(March 19th)." 

That is the unadorned record by a seaman of the end 
of his ship and the deaths of twelve of his fellows. What- 
ever might be the confusion of policy in Germany, there 
was no doubt by this time of the character of the acts by 
sea of the submarine commanders. 

An effective contrast to many stories of sinkings which 
were being received by the Admiralty was provided by the 
escape of the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company's oil-tanker 
Turbo (4,782 tons), which gained for the master (Mr. J. 
Hill) a mention in despatches. This vessel had been given 
a 12-pounder gun, and though she had a speed of only 
about 10 knots, she managed to outmanoeuvre the enemy. 
Early in the morning of March 1st — at 5.45, to be exact — 
when she was in the Mediterranean, on passage from Port 
Said to London, a submarine, four miles distant on the 
port bow, opened fire on her. Altering course in order to 
bring the enemy astern of him, Captain Hill ordered the 
fire to be returned. The situation was a trying one, for 
the Turbo's crew consisted of fifty-three Chinese and only 
nine British. Soon after the duel opened, the Chinamen 
almost got out of hand, but owing to the firmness of the 
master and the influence of British members of the crew, 
they were induced to keep at their stations. For upwards 
of half an hour the enemy continued the chase, gradually 
lessening the distance separating the two vessels and firing 
intermittently. Fortunately none of the twenty rounds 
struck the merchantman, while the Turbo's gunners got 
at last so close to the submarine that she suddenly aban- 
doned the action. Captain Hill completed his voyage in 
safety, his ship being undamaged and his crew uninjured. 
In this instance speed and good handling proved the means 
of salvation of a valuable ship. 

Another conspicuous example of pluck and good sea- 
manship, which gained for the master the D.S.C., besides 


recognition for other officers and the quartermaster, 
was the Duendes (4,602 tons). This vessel was home- 
ward bound from St. Johns, N.B., to Plymouth, and 
was seventy miles west from the Scillies at 5.40 on the 
morning of March 13th when a shot fell astern of her. 
The vessel was unarmed and her best speed was only 
about 10 1 knots. With hardly a thought of the odds 
against him, the master (Mr. Albert Chittenden) decided 
he would resist capture. So he pressed on all speed and 
brought the enemy astern of him. His efforts were 
splendidly seconded by the chief officer (Mr. J. Blacklock), 
the chief engineer (Mr. W. Cameron), Cadet F. Bennion 
and Quartermasters E. Dobbins and T. Taylor. For an 
hour the Difendes outmanoeuvred the submarine, which 
maintained a continuous fire. The vessel was hit nine 
times, the wireless house, as well as the bridge, was struck 
and the wireless apparatus put out of action for a time, but 
otherwise the vessel was uninjured. The submarine 
commander at length came to the conclusion that his 
efforts were doomed to failure. So he abandoned the chase 
and the Duendes reached her destination without further 
molestation. In the case of the Cunard steamer Phrygia 
(3,353 tons), on the 24th, a 6-pounder gun, admirably 
fought, in combination with a heavy sea, was responsible 
for a fortunate escape. The submarine could not get on 
her target, while the gunners of the Phrygia, at a range of 
1,500 yards, hit the enemy twice. The first shot caused 
her to emit a thick cloud of smoke and to list heavily to 
starboard. She then up-ended, and while in this position 
was struck again, and nothing more was seen of her. 
The master (Mr. F. Manley) was mentioned in despatches 
for saving his ship. 

During the latter part of the month the mine peril 
became very serious. Two of the most conspicuous 
disasters must be mentioned. The Sea Serpent (902 tons) 
went down on the 23rd off Folkestone Pier, with the result 
that the master (Mr, W. Philps) and thirteen of his crew 
were killed ; and on the last day of the month the 
Alacrity (1,080 tons) disappeared in mysterious circum- 
stances. She sailed in ballast from Le Havre for Seaham 
Harbour on the 29th, passed through the Downs on the 
night of the 30th-31st, and then all trace of her was lost. 
She was an old ship, having been built in 1883, but on the 


eve of the war she had been thoroughly overhauled by her 
owners, so that there was every reason to assume that 
she was seaworthy. Evidence eventually pointed un- 
mistakably to the conclusion that she had struck a mine 
and had sunk, carrying with her the master (Mr. J. Dickin- 
son) as well as the crew of thirteen hands. 

The enemy's submarine operations during March also 
led to considerable loss of life, the most serious case being 
that of the Minneapolis (13,543 tons). The depositions 
of the master (Mr. F. O. Hasker) suggest vividly the condi- 
tions which then prevailed at sea. For several weeks past 
the enemy submarines had met with little success in the 
Mediterranean, but the usual precautions had been en- 
forced on all masters. The Minneapolis left Marseilles 
for Alexandria on March 20th. She followed the course 
given her by the Divisional Naval Transport Officer. All 
the usual water-tight doors were closed ; boats were 
swung out, lowered half-way, and then f rapped in to 
secure them ; and Captain Hasker issued a general caution 
that a good lookout should be maintained. The Minne- 
apolis was proceeding at full speed on the morning of the 
23rd, and zigzagging in accordance with Admiralty in- 
structions, when an explosion occurred in the forward 
end of the engine-room on the port side. No submarine 
had been observed. The second officer was in charge on 
the bridge, an A.B. was stationed on the fo'c'sle head, 
another A.B. was in the crow's-nest, and there was of course 
a quartermaster at the wheel. The ship was travelling at 
between 15 to 15| knots. The second officer saw a torpedo 
approaching the vessel at right angles, but it was too late 
to do anything beyond sounding the whistle for stations 
before the Minneapolis reeled under the explosion. Cap- 
tain Hasker, who had been on the lower bridge, then took 

On going below, the chief engineer (Mr. R. P. Palmer) 
found the engine-room flooded, the water having already 
risen to within two feet of the top of the engines. 
Measures were immediately taken to close the remaining 
water-tight doors, which had been left open to enable the 
ship to be worked. In spite of every precaution, however, 
the ship gradually sank by the stern, while the engines 
stopped of their own accord. Nine of the staff who were 
down below at the time of the explosion were apparently 


killed instantly when the vessel was struck. In a com- 
paratively short time, most of the crew had taken to the 
boats or rafts ; the master, with the otherofficers, engineers, 
and the carpenter's mate, remained for the time on board 
the vessel. Fortunately, early in the afternoon two men- 
of-war came to the assistance of the distressed seamen, 
and an attempt was made to tow the Minneapolis. For a 
time the operation was continued with some success, but 
at 11 o'clock that night the rope parted, and it broke 
again early the following morning. At last H.M.S. 
Nasturtium took over the task of towing the ship from 
H.M.S. Lydiard. Assisted by a trawler made fast on 
each quarter of the Minneapolis, the Nasturtium stuck 
to the job until midnight and it was then apparent that 
the vessel could not remain much longer afloat. Shortly 
after midnight this anticipation was fulfilled and she sank 
stern first, three men, in addition to the nine engine-room 
hands, having lost their lives as the result of the enemy's 
criminal act. From first to last nothing was seen of the 

This tragedy occurred 195 miles E. | N. from Malta, 
and on the following day the Englishman (5,257 tons) 
was sunk by a submarine thirty miles north-east from 
Malin Head, supplying evidence, supported by the sink- 
ing on the same day off Dungcness and Bishop Rock 
respectively of the Salybia (3,352 tons) and the Fenay 
Bridge (3,838 tons), that the enemy was working simul- 
taneously in British waters as well as in the Mediterranean. 
The Englishman (master, Mr. W. A. Moorehouse) sailed 
from Avonmouth for Portland, Mayne, on the 22nd, and 
on the morning of the second day out passed Oversay, 
Isle of Islay, steering, in accordance with Admiralty in- 
structions, in a north-westerly direction. Shortly after 
noon Captain Moorehouse sighted a submarine on the 
surface, one point on the starboard quarter about a mile 
away. The weather was fine and clear. The enemy was 
flying flags, evidently attempting to signal, but the master 
was determined not to sacrifice his ship without making, 
at any rate, an attempt to escape. So he put his helm to 
starboard and rang for extra speed, thus bringing the 
submarine right astern of him. The submarine also 
altered course and, giving chase, opened a steady fire 
upon the merchantman. 


Captain Moorehouse, realising the desperate position 
in which he stood, ordered the boats to be lowered to 
the rail and all the members of the crew who were off duty 
to stand by them. Within a quarter of an hour of the 
opening of the chase, the davits of boats Nos. 3 and 5 on 
the starboard side were shot away, causing the boats to 
fall into the water, together with about thirty men. The 
ship was then stopped, and an attempt made to pick 
up the seamen who were fighting for life in the water. 
Ten of them were rescued and then the ship was abandoned. 
The submarine, coming in close, fired two torpedoes into 
her, one on the starboard and the other on the port side, 
and continued to fire into her until she sank at 2.30 p.m. 
Though the Englishman and ten of her crew were destroyed, 
the enemy expended two torpedoes and about forty shots 
in the operation, and then, still on the surface, she dis- 
appeared. Three days later the Manchester Engineer 
(4,302 tons) was torpedoed near Coningbeg Light -vessel ; 
on the following day the Eagle Point (5,222 tons) and the 
Rio Tiete (7,464 tons) were captured in the vicinity of 
Bishop Rock and Ushant respectively, and then occurred 
the spirited attempt of the Goldmouth (7,446 tons) to elude 

This vessel was bringing home a cargo of oil from Tara- 
kar, Borneo, when she fell in with a submarine while 
crossing the Bay of Biscay. The Goldmouth had been 
provided with a small gun, so when the submarine's 
conning-tower was observed emerging out of the water 
about three miles away on the starboard beam, the master 
(Mr. R. L. Allinson) determined to make a fight for his 
ship, his cargo, and the lives of his crew. As soon as the 
submarine had reached the surface, she opened fire from 
her two guns. Everything was in her favour, for she out- 
ranged the little gun of the British merchantman, with 
the result that the two gunners of the Goldmouth fought 
under a continuous fire to which they could make no effec- 
tive reply. They continued, however, undaunted. At 
last one of the enemy's shells struck the bridge, on which 
the captain was standing ; another wTccked the officers' 
cabin ; and yet another, penetrating the deck, exploded 
in an oil-tank. The main steam-pipe was damaged, and 
the speed of the Goldmotith, as she struggled through the 
oil-covered water, fell off to 3 or 4 knots. It seemed hope- 

CH. xiv] THE "SUSSEX" INCmENT 303 

less that she could escape, but the master remained on 
the bridge with unconquerable pluck, while the wireless 
operator continued to send out calls for help. 

At last an answer in code was received from a distant 
patrol-vessel, but by that time the master, having given 
up hope of escape, had, in accordance with Admiralty 
instructions, thrown the weighted code -book overboard 
with his other confidential papers. At last the wireless 
operator had his foot shot away ; Captain Allinson also 
learnt that the gunners had used their last shot, having 
fired sixty altogether. They had been out-gunned and 
out-ranged and, though they had succeeded in keeping 
the enemy at a distance, they had not secured a single hit. 
Against overwhelming odds — for the enemy fired about 
200 shots and hit the vessel twenty times — the master had 
made a fine attempt to save his ship. His crew consisted 
of forty-seven Chinese and twelve British seamen, and " all 
behaved well, especially the British," during an ordeal 
which lasted for over an hour. Only two boats remained, 
and into these the crew took their places as soon as the 
order to abandon ship had been given. The submarine 
then drew in and the master was called to go on board, 
where, having been roundly cursed by the German com- 
mander, he was made prisoner. In one of the boats was 
the wounded wireless operator, as well as a Chinaman who 
had had a finger shot away, but an appeal for first-aid 
dressings was callously refused. The boats were ordered 
to clear out, and then two torpedoes were put into the 
Goldmouth, which was simultaneously submitted to a 
heavy gunfire. As the ship sank, the submarine dis- 
appeared. After three hours' pulling the boats were, by 
a happy chance, picked up by a trawler. Captain Allinson 
was awarded the D.S.C. and the chief officer (Mr. D. 
Pearce) and the wireless operator (Mr. R. C. Older) were 
mentioned in despatches. 

During March an incident occurred which was to have 
considerable influence on the enemy submarine war. In 
the late afternoon on March 24th, 1916, the French cross- 
Channel packet Smsex was making her way between 
England and France when she was torpedoed in lat. 
50° 42' N., long. 1° 11' E. She was hit forward, her bows 
being blown completely off as far aft as the foremast. 
A French trawler came on the scene as well as the British 



destroyer Afridi, and these two vessels took off the 
survivors. Among the passengers aboard the Sussex 
were many Americans, of whom several were killed. The 
torpedoing of this vessel, in face of German pledges, again 
roused the United States. The American Government 
sent to Germany a sharp Note protesting against the 
wrongfulness of the submarine campaign against com- 
merce and threatening to break off diplomatic relations. 
The result of this Note, presented on April 20th, was that 
the German Government capitulated, and ordered the 
Naval Staff to see that henceforward submarine warfare 
was carried out in accordance with Prize Law ; that is to 
say, the U-boats would, before sinking a merchant ship, 
come to the surface, stop the prize, examine her papers, 
and cause all passengers and crew to leave her. This 
decision was diametrically opposed to the views of naval 
officers connected with the submarine service, who realised 
that, what with the proximity of destroyers, trawlers, 
motor-launches, decoys, and other craft, they would be 
exposed to the greatest danger, and the submarine cam- 
paign, which was intended to bring Great Britain to her 
knees, must fail. The U-boats operating against British 
commerce in British waters were, therefore, recalled on 
April 25th, though of course the East Coast mine-laying 
submarines and the submarines in the Mediterranean 
carried on as before. 

Before the new orders reached the commanders at sea, 
they had been very busy, paying no regard to Prize Law 
or other considerations. In the month of April fifty-six 
British merchant vessels were intercepted, and forty- 
three, of 141,193 tons, were sunk, with a loss of 131 lives, 
all but six, which struck mines, being the victims of 
submarines. The spirit of the seamen, in spite of the 
latest threat of the Germans to treat defensively armed 
vessels as men-of-war, was unbroken. Indeed, whether 
a gun was or was not available, several of the masters 
put up fine fights. One event occurred on the first of the 
month which attracted the notice of the Admiralty. The 
Australian Steamship Company's Ashburton (4,445 tons), 
when on voyage from Wellington, N.Z., to London, was 
about 180 miles south-east from Land's End when the 
master (Mr. C. Matthews) was called to the upper bridge. 
Suspicions had been aroused by a " stick," which appeared 


to be attached to a pear-shaped buoy standing vertically 
about 40 feet distant ; it was stationary. Captain Mat- 
thews brought the " stick " astern and then stood watch- 
ing it through his glasses. All doubts as to what it 
indicated were soon set at rest, for it rose to the surface 
and it was realised that the Ashburton was confronted 
with a submarine. A distress call was immediately 
dispatched, and although the enemy signalled Captain 
Matthews to stop, he continued on his course at full 
speed, sending everyone available into the engine-room 
to help with the fires. The submarine, after a short delay, 
opened fire ; fifteen shots hit the Ashburton. She gradu- 
ally drew in close and Captain Matthews had to admit 
that escape was hopeless : the mast and wireless gear 
had been shot away ; the funnel, boats, and deck-house 
had been badly damaged ; and five of the crew had been 
wounded during the fusillade, which had lasted twenty 
minutes. The ship was stopped and the usual formalities 
were observed. A torpedo dispatched the Ashburton, 
and the crew, in their two boats, were left to fare as best 
they might. Happily help was at hand and no lives were 
lost. Captain Matthews was mentioned in despatches for 
his attempt to save his ship. 

On the same day the Perth (653 tons) was torpedoed with- 
out warning, with a loss of six lives, when one mile S.E. 
by E. from Cross Sand Light-vessel, as well as the sailing- 
vessel Bengairn (2,127 tons), 165 miles west -south-west 
from the Fastnet. The former vessel was at anchor, 
when at midnight she was split in two by a torpedo, 
the fore part sinking at once with the chief engineer and 
four of the crew. A somewhat similar fate overtook the 
P. & O. liner Simla (5,884 tons) on the following day. 
She was acting as an Admiralty transport and had been 
provided with a gun. This weapon proved valueless, 
for when she was off Gozo she was struck without 
warning on the port side, the stokehold being pierced 
and ten of the engine-room staff killed outright. The 
survivors were rescued by a French patrol -boat and landed 
at Malta. On the following day, April 3rd, the Clan 
Campbell (5,897 tons), also defensively armed, was 
destroyed with a similar lack of ceremony and humanity 
twenty-nine miles south-east of Cape Bon, happily with- 
out loss of life ; and on the 5th the Chantala (4,951 tons) 


disappeared fifteen miles north of Cape Bengut, nine of 
the crew being killed. 

A far more grievous sacrifice of human life attended 
the sinking of the Zent (3,890 tons). This vessel was 
also torpedoed without warning. She was outward 
bound in ballast from Liverpool to Santa Marta, and 
on the night of the 5th, at 10.15, she had reached 
a position twenty-eight miles W. by S. i S. from the 
Fastnet, when a torpedo penetrated the engine-room, 
and was followed by a second, which struck the vessel 
near No. 3 hatch. No ship could withstand such in- 
juries as the Zent had sustained, and in two minutes 
nothing was to be seen of her ; her end came so swiftly 
that three boats, in which men had already taken their 
places, capsized as the steamer took her dive. From 
one cause and another the death-roll mounted to forty- 
nine ; among the lives lost being that of a stowaway, a 
black, who had thought to cross the sea safely, and at no 
charge, in this fine ship of the British India Steam 
Navigation Company. 



When the German Government first declared that all 
vessels found in the war zone round the British Islands 
would be torpedoed without warning, the route which 
runs across the southern end of the North Sea, between 
Parkeston and Rotterdam, was, perhaps, more immedi- 
ately threatened than any of the approaches to British 
harbours. Zeebrugge, the base of the Flanders Flotilla, 
is thirty-five miles to the southward of the central part 
of the track, which was thus a first point of attack for 
all submarines on their outward trips ; and every vessel 
plying along the route was in greatest danger when she 
was in the middle of her voyage, farthest away from land 
or naval assistance. The duty of maintaining this danger- 
ous service fell, mainly, upon the captains of the Great 
Eastern Railway Company's steamers, who soon got an 
accurate picture of the risks involved. Between March 
and July 1915 the steamship Brussels was attacked 
five times : once when she was commanded by Captain 
Fryatt, twice when Captain Hartnell was in charge, and 
twice when she was under Captain Beeching. The 
captains were quite unflinching ; they carried the extra 
weight of their responsibilities without complaint ; and all 
the steamers of the company sailed at their appointed 
times, week after week and month after month. 

The service rendered by these men was of the first 
importance. War against commerce is made effective 
almost as much by holding up sailings as by sinking 
or capturing ships, and when the German Government 
started their war upon sea-borne trade it was feared that 
one of its most serious consequences would be that of 
suspended sailings. The spring of 1915 was thus a highly 
critical time ; and during the first months of the cam- 
paign communications with Holland were threatened by 



the fact that a considerable number of neutral vessels 
refused to sail. The captains of the Great Eastern Rail- 
way Company's steamers were not, however, intimidated. 
Early in April our Consul-General at Rotterdam wrote to 
the Foreign Office calling attention to the " highly meri- 
torious and courageous conduct " of the captains of the 
Brussels, the Colchester, the Cromer, and the Wrexham, 
and added that the regular sailings and arrivals of the 
steamers had produced a great moral effect locally, at 
a time when Dutch and other steamships had ceased 
running owing to the nervousness of their commanders 
and owners. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 
and the Admiralty wrote to the company and asked that 
their appreciation should be conveyed to all concerned. 

This was the second time on which the Admiralty had 
expressed their admiration ; for they had already con- 
gratulated Captain Fryatt for his conduct in circum- 
stances which must be closely examined. Early in the 
afternoon of March 28th, 1915, when the Brussels was 
approaching the Maas Lightship, on passage from 
Parkeston to Rotterdam, Captain Fryatt sighted a large 
submarine on his starboard bow. She was U33, just 
starting out for the English Channel, under the command 
of Kapitan-Leutnant Gansser, who signalled to the 
Brussels, which was unarmed, to stop. It was Captain 
Fryatt's plain duty to escape capture if he could, and his 
obligation was the more binding in that the Admiralty 
had instructed all merchant captains to thwart sub- 
marine attacks by every means in their power. Apart 
from this, Captain Fryatt was quite justified in thinking 
that Captain Gansser's signals were a treacherous ruse to 
make torpedoing easier. 

In any case he was not the man to hesitate ; he had 
been attacked once before, and his seamanship and know- 
ledge of his vessel told him that, though the danger was 
great, he might still avoid it. He judged, at once, that 
he had no time to turn and escape by flight, and so altered 
course to pass under the submarine's stern. U33 moved 
across the bows of the approaching ship so as to torpedo 
her when she opened her port side, after the turn was 
completed. The two vessels were thus approaching very 
fast, and the danger to the Brussels increased with every 
second. Captain Fryatt was quick to see that his first 


manoeuvre had been countered, but he had another ready. 
As the submarine crossed his bows he put his helm hard 
a-starboard and made straight towards her. Captain 
Gansscr was, apparently, not in the conning-tower at the 
moment, and the officer in charge gave the order to 
submerge. It was at once obeyed ; the Brussels passed 
about 50 yards under U33's stern when she was about 
25 feet below the water ; and Captain Gansser did not 
break surface again until Captain Fryatt's ship was five 
miles away. The entry in the Brussels^ s log is of great 
importance, as it was made at a moment when Captain 
Fryatt's recollection of what had happened was still 
fresh and vivid. It ran thus : 

" 1.10 p.m. sighted submarine two points on starboard 
bow. I altered my course to go under his stern. He then 
turned round and crossed my bow from starboard to port. 
When he saw me starboard my helm he started to sub- 
merge, and I steered straight for him. At 1.30 his peri- 
scope came up under my bows, port side, about 6 feet 
from the side and passed astern. Although a good look- 
out was kept, I saw nothing else of him. I was steering 
an E. by S. course at the time of sighting him, and brought 
my ship to a north-easterly course when I was over the 
top of him. The lat. was 51° 08' N., long. 3° 41' E." 

It was a modest way of recording the achievement. 
At the lowest estimate of the risks involved. Captain 
Fryatt had saved several hundreds of his countrymen 
from imprisonment or worse and his ship from capture ; 
assuming that Captain Gansser intended to act on the 
proclamation of his Government, every person in the 
Brussels had been rescued from imminent danger.^ 

1 Captain Gansser's impressions differed from those of Captain Fryatt, 
as was, perhaps, not tmnatural in the circumstances. The entry in USS's 
log was as follows : " 28. 3. 15. North Sea, light northerly breezes, 
visibility eight miles. 2.20 p.m. steering for the Noord Hinder Lightship. 
Sighted a steamer . . . heading for the Maas Lightship at full speed, and 
showing no flags. At a distance of four mUes I signalled — Stop im- 
mediately or I fire ! — at the same time altering my course towards the 
steamer. At a distance of one mile, I cleared one tube for action. The 
steamer neither altered its coin"se nor speed. U33 making direct for the 
steamer. At a distance of 500 M (metres) , and only a few seconds before the 
shot was to have been fired, the steamer put her helm over, and came at 
U33 with the manifest intention of ramming us. In view of her high speed 
and the large arc described by the steamer, it was not possible for me to 


Four years later Captain Gansser stated on oath that 
he had seriously thought of taking the Brussels into port 
as a prize. It was not, however, Captain Fryatt's duty 
to speculate on the nature of the danger, but to avoid it ; 
and how could he, with several hundreds of utterly defence- 
less persons under his charge, have trusted to the humanity 
of a German submarine commander at such a moment ? 
The exact nature of the threat to the Brussels is, moreover, 
immaterial, for whether it were capture or destruction, 
Captain Fryatt had an equal right, and an equal duty, 
to act as he did. 

The courage and skill with which the Brussels had been 
handled did not pass unnoticed. The Admiralty con- 
gratulated the master warmly and presented him with 
a gold watch ; and on April 28th his name was mentioned 
in the House of Commons in answer to a question by 
Lord Charles Beresford. 

During the next year Captain Fryatt continued in 
command of the Brussels. His record of service would 
make monotonous reading, but it was by no means 
uneventful to him. His ship, like the other vessels of the 
company, was often attacked ; and a high testimony to 
Captain Fryatt and his brother-captains is to be found 
in the fact that, by June 1916, the Germans had, appar- 
ently, given up all hope of interrupting the Rotterdam 
service by submarines. 

Then occurred the incident which led to events that 
moved the world to indignation. Late in the afternoon 
of June 22nd, 1916, the Brussels left Rotterdam for Tilbury. 
Captain Fryatt had orders to stop at the Hook of Hol- 
land to pick up mails, which he accordingly did. By 
11 o'clock he was under way again, steering for the 
Thames. There was a large number of escaped Russian 
prisoners and Belgians on board, and before leaving 
Rotterdam the British Consul-General, Mr. Maxse, placed 
an important diplomatic mail in Captain Fryatt's charge. 
As they left the Hook, both the captain and his first 
officer, Mr. Hartnell, noticed strange rocket lights in the 

make sure of striking her with a torpedo. As observed through the 
periscope, the steamer passed us at a distance of from twenty to thirty 
metres, after which she resumed her former course at high speed. . , , 
2.40 came to the surface." The difference in the times recorded by U33 
and the Brussels is not a discrepancy between the two accounts. U33 
yire^s keeping Mid-European time and the Brussels Greenwich time. 


direction of the shore ; and when twelve miles west of 
the Maas Lightship they distinctly saw " a very small 
craft, probably a submarine not submerged," morsing the 
letter *■' S." It was clear that the ship was being watched, 
and Captain Fryatt issued strict orders that all lights 
were to be put out and the passengers kept below. The 
enemy was not his only anxiety, for he knew that another 
steamer was very near him, steering the same course 
without lights. He could not get a sight of her, in spite 
of a very sharp lookout, and at half-past twelve he 
switched on port and starboard lights for a few minutes. 

At a quarter to one Captain Fryatt became aware that 
his ship was surrounded by German destroyers, and stopped 
her when warned that they were about to fire. He 
probably hoped to escape to the very last, for Mr. Hartnell, 
the first officer, seemed surprised that no firing occurred. 
Captain Fryatt was calm and mindful of his duty. 
His first care was to have the diplomatic mail destroyed 
in the engine-room furnaces, after which he warned the 
passengers to be ready to take to the boats if necessary. 
As the last mail-bag was reduced to ashes, the Germans 
came over the side with revolvers and bombs. The crew 
were pushed into destroyers pretty roughly. Mr. Hart- 
nell refused to follow them and was ordered to the bridge, 
where he joined Captain Fryatt. 

The German officers who took charge of the ship were 
very nervous and excited. The senior one of them at 
once put the engine-room telegraph to " Full speed ahead," 
but as the stokers and engineers were prisoners in the 
destroyers, the stokeholds were deserted and nothing 
happened. The German officer then drew his revolver, 
pointed it at Captain Fryatt, and threatened to shoot him 
dead if he obstructed the navigation of the ship. The 
captors were persuaded, very reluctantly, that the fault 
did not lie with Captain Fryatt, after which they ordered 
their own men to go down and work the engines. They 
rushed below and, being unable to read the engine-room 
telegraph, put the engines to full speed astern. 

The Brussels reached the Schouwenbank Lightship 
some time after daybreak, when the German flag was 
hoisted. Soon afterwards the Flushing mail-boat passed 
close by, and Captain Fryatt remarked, as he saw her, 
that the capture of the Brussels would be reported early. 


He was evidently thinking of how anxiety and worry 
would spread at home when once his ship was reported 
overdue. During the forenoon the Brussels arrived at 
Zeebrugge, and after a stay of five hours was sent on 
up the canal to Bruges. Both banks were crowded with 
Landsturm and soldiers of the Marine Corps as she 
passed up. 

At Bruges the prisoners were landed and distributed 
at various prison camps, after they had been transported 
over Germany in cattle-trucks and publicly exhibited in 
the towns through which they passed. 

On June 28th Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were 
put into the camp at Ruhleben. Barrack No. 1, to which 
Captain Fryatt was consigned, was in charge of an 
Englishman called Turnbull, a man who owned a business 
in Hamburg, where he had lived for a number of years. 
He had been dubbed a pro-German by his fellow- 
prisoners, and rumour credited him with having played a 
very sinister part in what followed : that of getting 
Captain Fryatt to talk freely, by being kind and friendly 
to him, and laying the information so obtained with the 
German authorities. Of this there is no evidence at all. 
Turnbull was certainly kind to Fryatt — very likely 
because he was lonely and dejected at the ostracism to 
which he was subjected — and it is equally certain that 
Fryatt never concealed the fact that he had several times 
saved the Brussels from submarine attacks ; but there is 
no trace at all of any information ever having been lodged 
by Turnbull with the German authorities. 

The Germans had enough information for their pur- 
pose without tapping new sources. They had carefully 
noted the statements made in the House of Commons, 
when Captain Fryatt's name was mentioned ; Captain 
Gansser's report of what had happened on March 28th, 
1915, had been in their hands for over a year; and the 
High Naval Command was painfully aware of the part 
which the Merchant Service had played in thwarting 
their plans. These three things — not one of which gave 
him the slightest reason to be ashamed — were the cause 
of Captain Fryatt's subsequent death. 

On June 30th Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were 
given orders to leave the camp under escort. They were 
told that they would only be away for a few days ; but 


the instant they passed the camp gates they were for- 
bidden to speak to one another and treated as ordinary 
prisoners. Their arrest may, therefore, be said to have 
taken place at Ruhleben on June 30th, and it will be shown 
later that this is an important point. On July 2nd the 
two prisoners arrived at Bruges and were thrown into 
jail, though no charge was brought against them. What 
happened to Captain Fryatt during the next three weeks 
is known only in its barest outlines. He was kept in a 
cell by himself, although allowed, for a time, to speak to 
Mr. Hartnell, and was frequently visited and cross- 
questioned by German officials. During those visits he 
never concealed the fact that he had been in danger of 
attack from a German submarine a year before and had 
escaped by steering straight for her and compelling her 
to dive. Never once, as far as is known, was he warned 
that what he said might be used against him, nor was 
any legal adviser instructed to act on his behalf and warn 
him of the consequences of anything that he might say. 
Did Captain Fryatt, none the less, guess that he was stand- 
ing into danger ? He may have drawn his own conclu- 
sions from being treated as an ordinary prisoner and 
from the repeated cross-questionings. If he did, the 
fearlessness with which he faced what was coming does 
him the highest honour, for we can only see, in the frank- 
ness with which he supplied the material for his own 
condemnation, a determination to take all upon himself 
and a resolute purpose that he, and he only, should be 
enmeshed in the cowardly and vindictive plot which was 

These long cross-questionings raise another question : 
Who was the directing genius of this sinister, methodical 
plan to encompass Captain Fryatt's death ? All the 
evidence available points to Admiral von Schroder, the 
officer in command of the Marine Corps on the Belgian 
coast. The laws of the German Empire allowed local com- 
manders, in time of war, to bring foreign enemy subjects 
before courts martial, without reference to the Central 
Government or General Headquarters ; and Bruges, where 
the trial took place and where Fryatt was subjected 
to those interminable cross-questionings, was within the 
limits of Schroder's command. Years later, moreover, 
the president of the court — Dr. Zapfel — stated positively 


that the trial had been ordered by Admiral von Schroder, 
and added that, in his capacity as Court Martial Officer 
(Kriegsgerichtsassessor), he recognised no other authority. 
Nor is this all. The case of Captain Fryatt became 
engraved on the minds of the local population, and 
when the German armies finally retired, Schroder's name 
was the centre of a cycle of ugly stories. According 
to one. Dr. Zapfel had expressed regret at what had 
happened, saying that he was powerless in the matter — a 
curious remark from a trained lawyer who, as presi- 
dent of the court martial, was responsible that justice 
should be properly administered. Bad as the stories 
were, there was a peculiar consistency in them ; even 
the terrible accusation that Admiral von Schroder said 
openly that, by a certain date, he desired that Captain 
Fryatt should have ceased to live, assumes a sinister 
probability in the light of what happened later. Was 
the proceeding of Schroder's sole planning, or were 
the high authorities at Berlin consenting parties ? This 
question is not so easy to answer, but such material as we 
do possess is significant enough. Towards the middle of 
July the British Consul-General at Rotterdam informed 
the Foreign Office that Captain Fryatt would shortly 
be brought before a court martial, and Lord Grey at once 
asked the American Ambassador at Berlin to engage a 
competent counsel. His Excellency, Mr. Gerard, brought 
the matter to the attention of the Imperial Foreign Office 
on July 20th. He received no answer, and sent in a fur- 
ther Note verbale, marked " Very Urgent," on July 22nd. 
Only on the afternoon of the 26th was he told that the 
trial would take place on the following day. Why was 
there this delay of six whole days in answering ? 

On July 24th, whilst Mr. Gerard was still pressing for 
a reply, the two prisoners at Bruges were cross-questioned 
for the last time, and when the examination was over, 
Captain Fryatt was warned that he would be tried by 
court martial. His candour and fearlessness had pro- 
duced one result : that he alone was charged in the 

But the vindictive diligence of Schroder and his 
subordinates did not limit itself to amassing material 
for the trial. They knew, well enough, how their case 
would be torn in pieces by an experienced counsel who 


had been given time to prepare his brief ; and, for the 
next three days, Captain Fryatt was kept in his cell 
without advice or assistance. 

At nine o'clock in the morning of July 27th, Captain 
Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were taken to a waiting-room of 
the prison, where, to their surprise, they met four members 
of the BrusseWs crew. Three hours later they were all 
taken to a private house near the town hall, where the 
court had assembled. It was called a Corps Gericht des 
Marine Corps, and differed from what is known as a field 
court martial in that its sentence could be appealed against. 
It consisted of a president. Dr. Zapfel, a trained lawyer, 
of five officers whose names have not been divulged, and 
a secretary. 

Before the trial opened, each member was sworn in by 
an oath adapted to the duties of a military court : " I 
swear by God Almighty that, having given due considera- 
tion to the judicial duties imposed upon me, I will adminis- 
ter justice in accordance with my conscientious convictions, 
so help me God." The formula, therefore, imposed no 
obligation to administer the law, and showed that Fryatt 
was not arraigned for any offence against a written criminal 
code. The enactment of the German Empire which gave 
the court its jurisdiction was, in fact, one which made 
certain rules of international law binding upon its officers ; 
and it was by the set of customs and usages known as the 
law of nations, in that it derived its binding force from 
the established practice of civilised peoples, that Captain 
Fryatt was to be tried. Had it been administered he could 
never have been condemned. 

As the prisoner and witnesses entered the court, an 
officer in uniform told Captain Fryatt that he had been 
ordered to defend him. This man's name was Major 
Naumann ; he had held a subordinate position in the 
Imperial Courts before the war, and it should be said of 
him that he strove conscientiously to do his duty. 

The charge against Captain Fryatt was that he was 
" strongly suspected of having attempted to cause injury 
to the forces of Germany " ; and that his action on 
March 28th of the previous year came within the mean- 
ing of a proclamation issued to the population on land : 
" All persons, not being members of the enemy forces, 
including civil servants of the enemy government, render 


themselves liable to the death penalty if they undertake 
to advantage the enemy state or to do injury to Germany 
or her allies." 

After the indictment had been read out, the president 
laid before the court a telegram from the Foreign Office 
at Berlin, asking that the trial should be postponed. 
Major Naumann at once seconded the request, by pressing 
for a stay in the proceedings, and asked that the American 
Embassy should be allowed to appoint a counsel, in view 
of the political significance which attached to the trial. 
Unfortunately, the matter had already been decided. 
Admiral von Schroder had replied, before the court opened, 
that the trial could not be delayed, and Dr. Zapfel was not 
the kind of man to resist him. The court did, it is true, 
adjourn to consider Major Naumann's plea ; but they 
reassembled after a few minutes and rejected it. 

The prosecution relied, in the first place, upon the direct 
testimony of Lieutenant Wieder and a seaman called 
Richter, both of whom had been in U33 on March 28th, 
1915, and, in the second, upon a written statement by 
Captain Gansser, who was then serving in the Mediter- 
ranean, and upon extracts from certain Dutch and English 
newspapers. The war diary of U33 was the only document 
contemporary with the event which was produced in 
court : the log of the Brussels was not exhibited, although 
it had been in German hands for more than a month. 
Captain Fryatt's defence might have been based upon two 
pleas : it might have been shown, first, that as he had 
been instructed by the Admiralty to resist submarine 
attack by steering direct for the submarine if needs be, 
he was outside the rules relating to those who carry on 
unauthorised warfare ; and it might have been shown, 
in the second place, that, in every age, merchant captains 
have had the right to resist capture, and that the defensive 
arming of merchantmen had been recognised as only an 
assertion of that general right. 

Had these arguments been presented, no court could 
have resisted them ; but it had been the particular care of 
Admiral von Schroder and Dr. Zapfel to make a defence on 
such lines impossible. There is no reason to doubt that, 
given time for preparing such arguments, and facilities for 
seeing and consulting with the man whom he was called 
upon to defend, Major Naumann would have made out an 


overwhelming case : it was, therefore, carefully arranged 
that he should have neither the one nor the other. 

Still, he did his best. When the court subjected Captain 
Fryatt to a long cross-questioning, he objected to whatever 
he thought unfair, and he protested strongly against 
admitting Captain Gansser's statement — which does not 
appear to have been an affidavit — when Captain Gansser 
himself could not be cross-examined. His objections were, 
in every case, overruled, and Captain Fryatt had to face 
the trained legal skill of Dr. Zapfel almost unaided. His 
answers were a perfect reflection of the man's nature : 
even in the mutilated, shortened form in which they have 
survived, they echo the undaunted courage which animated 
him to the last. He never denied that he had steered 
straight for the submarine ; but he was never tricked into 
admitting that he had tried to sink her. He saw that there 
was a difference between thwarting a submarine by com- 
pelling her to dive, and attacking her outright, and he 
clung to it firmly. He spoke with pride of the watch 
which the Admiralty had given him ; but pointed out that 
it had been given him for saving his ship from a submarine 
and nothing else. One of the most pathetic things in the 
trial was the way in which the man's loyalty hampered his 
defence. Had he shown, as he could easily have done, 
that he had acted strictly on Admiralty instructions in 
steering for the submarine, he would probably have been 
acquitted ; for when once he had proved that he had 
received orders, or something resembling orders, the 
accusation of being a franc-tireur would have fallen to 
pieces. But those instructions in which his salvation lay 
had been issued to him confidentially, and he never so 
much as hinted at their bare existence. 

Several times the Court strove to get answers from him 
which would have implicated the captains of the Cromer 
and the Colchester, and presented the prisoner with an 
extract from the Yarmouth Mercury which must have 
been disconcerting. Captain Fryatt refused to admit a 
syllable ; and his answer breathed contempt for a Court 
which could admit matter so irrelevant and untrust- 
worthy : "I heard the Cromer had been close to a U-boat. 
It is not right that such things should be published. Re- 
porters make mountains out of the most trivial matters." 
Time and time again Dr. Zapfel tried to make Captain 


Fryatt admit responsibility for the stories which were 
current in Rotterdam : every time he got back the same 
proud answer : "I never boasted that I had rammed a 

After the last witness had been examined, Major Nau- 
mann made his final effort on behalf of the prisoner. There 
was no proof, he said, that Captain Fryatt had tried to 
ram the submarine, and in its absence, he was entitled to 
be acquitted. Should the Court take an opposite view, 
judgment ought, none the less, to be postponed. The 
evidence of the two eye-witnesses to the event, Lieutenant 
Wieder and Seaman Richter, conflicted, for they each 
described how the submarine had been manoeuvred, in 
a different way. Until Captain Gansser could attend and 
clear up the points in dispute, the Court had neither the 
right nor the material to decide finally. When he had 
done speaking Captain Fryatt rose and stated firmly, but 
without defiance, that " he had done no wrong." " I was, 
and am still, proud of Captain Fryatt's manly behaviour," 
wrote Mr. Hartnell ; " and when he rose to his feet to speak 
for himself there was not a German present who could 
face him." 

After deliberating for only a few minutes, the Court 
returned and found Fryatt guilty. It was then about 
4 o'clock in the afternoon. 

The Court had persistently refused to listen to any 
plea of postponement ; but there was still a loophole of 
escape open to Captain Fryatt : an appeal for mercy. ^ He 
rejected it, without explaining why ; but his reason is 
clear. There was something so base in asking for pardon 
from men who, to him, seemed so mean and cowardly that 
death was preferable : better, a thousand times, to stand 
by his last proud claim that he had done no wrong, and 
lay it, intact, before a Higher Tribunal. 

Captain Fryatt was taken back to the prison and warned 
that he would be shot on the following day ; but by this 

1 There is a certain amount of doubt as to whether Captain Fryatt was 
ever given a chance of appealing at all. There is no suggestion of an 
appeal in the minutes of the coui't martial, and neither Mr. Hartnell nor 
the Belgian officials at the execution knew anything about it. It is 
certainly most curious that Captain Fryatt should never have mentioned 
his reason for not appealing to Mr. Hartnell ; but, on the other hand, the 
German Committee of jurists who inquired into the matter in 1919 stated, 
positively, that Captain Fryatt was given the chance of appealing and 
rejected it. 


time Admiral von Schroder was getting anxious. The 
telegram from the Foreign Office showed him, clearly 
enough, that the American Government was taking steps 
to secure a fair trial, and having completely thwarted 
them in this, he was anxious that no further move from 
high places should come between him and the final accom- 
plishment of the work which he had set himself to do. 
Orders were therefore issued that Captain Fryatt was to 
be shot that evening ; and not even the committee of 
German lawyers who, years later, exerted their ingenuity 
and learning in excusing the whole business, and relieving 
everybody of blame, could find one shadow of excuse for 
Schroder's decision. 

The findings of this body will be dealt with later ; but 
one of its statements should be noted at once : " In re- 
viewing the case, the commission has gained the impression 
that the military authorities, though they proceeded 
rigorously, never failed to respect the manly courage of 
Captain Fryatt." If that is so, it is the greater shame to 
them that they denied him the rights of a man about to 
die, and surrounded his death with brutality and outrage. 

After the trial was over, Captain Fryatt was put under 
the charge of Mr. Vergaelen, the governor of the prison, 
and was allowed for a few minutes to walk about the prison 
yard. Mr. Schaloigne, a political prisoner, strove to 
comfort him, and Mademoiselle Arens de Berteghem, a 
Belgian lady of noble family, who had earned imprison- 
ment by acts of compassion to prisoners and soldiers, 
seized his hands and promised that she would remain 
with him to the end. As they were talking, two German 
officers entered the yard and walked up to Captain Fryatt : 
unnerved by the long trial, he clutched Mr. Schaloigne's 
arm, and asked whether they were going to shoot him 
outright. But the two officers had come only to watch 
the nervous tension of a man under sentence of death, and 
when they started to mock and jibe at him, Captain Fryatt 
turned away with a gesture of scorn. At 5 o'clock the 
prisoner was taken back to his cell and Mr. Hartnell was 
allowed to talk to him. 

He had faced death so often, in the course of his life, 
that he viewed what was coming calmly ; but *' he was 
deeply upset," Mr. Hartnell has recorded, " at the 
unfair and cowardly way in which everything had been 



done." Captain Fryatt was still under the impression 
that he would not be shot until the following morning, and 
it was only towards 6 o'clock that a Lutheran minister 
entered the cell and told him to prepare for death at once. 
Naval Chaplain Koehne had half an hour in which to bring 
comfort to the doomed man ; and he seems to have spent 
a good part of it in trying to persuade him that he had been 
justly condemned for an offence against the laws of civilised 
warfare. Fryatt, it is recorded, nodded, and said that he 
was ready to answer for what he had done. The chaplain 
did, then, try to perform the solemn duty which had been 
laid upon him. He read over the twenty-third Psalm 
with him ; and so it was that, during his last hour of life, 
Captain Fryatt heard words which must have recalled the 
green woods and pastures of England to his mind, though 
they were uttered in the accents of his enemies. Had he 
wished to be assured of the mercy of God, he would not 
have gone to Naval Chaplain Koehne for guidance ; and 
his last thoughts were for his family, not for himself. To 
the harsh, unfeeling stranger who stood beside him he 
confided the names of his children, and he asked of him 
where his body would lie ; when told that it would be in 
Bruges cemetery, he begged that a photograph of it should 
be sent to his wife. He could not know that whilst it lay 
there it would be tended, and covered with flowers, by 
Belgian ladies, until the day should come when it would 
be carried back with honour to the land which he had 
served so faithfully. Finally he asked the chaplain to 
write to his wife : a duty which was scrupulously per- 
formed in a letter of 400 words, of which nearly half were 
devoted to explaining that Captain Fryatt had been justly 

Just before half-past six Captain Fryatt was led away. 
Mademoiselle Arens de Berteghem was on the watch, 
and spoke to him as he went out, at the greatest risk to 
herself, for he was then under an armed escort of German 

To the very end the Germans strove to insult a courage 
which they could not break. Captain Fryatt was taken 
to the Caserne d'Infanterie, up the long avenue of shady 
trees that passes in front of it, with a brass band play- 
ing at the head of the firing party. They led him through 
the gateway under the two-storied house which stands 


on one side of the barrack yard, where the senior officer 
present— Colonel von Bottelar — stood smoking a cigar, 
with a sporting dog on a leash beside him, and then tied 
him to an execution post which had been set up in the 
filthiest corner of the yard, near a manure heap. Nothing 
shook the prisoner's composure, and he received twelve 
bullets in his chest without flinching. 

If, in the vast staff which the German Government 
employed to spread propaganda abroad, there existed some 
honest and dispassionate -minded man, who traced the 
impression left on neutrals by German methods of war, 
the effect of Captain Fryatt's execution must have filled 
him with grief and shame. In America, the single voice 
which spoke in defence of the German court martial 
only served to make the opposite opinion more emphatic. 
The entire press of the capital condemned what had 
happened in the severest terms, and the New York Times 
described it as " a deliberate murder." American opinion 
was not moved by one of those gusts of feeling which 
exhaust themselves in the clamour of the daily press. 
The country was deeply stirred : the case was examined 
by the most learned and eminent jurists in the land, and 
their sentence was unanimous. Dr. Monroe Smith, after 
weighing every argument that either side could advance, 
concluded that Germany was " endeavouring to remodel 
the existing code of naval warfare, in its own immediate 
interest, and by its sole authority," and that " the state 
which assumes to be a law to itself puts itself outside 
the law." Dr. Ellery Stowell was just as impartial in 
examining the circumstances, and equally firm in his 
conclusions : " The execution of Captain Fryatt, under 
the circumstances reported in the press, is an inten- 
tional taking of human life without justification in 

The private leagues and associations of America consti- 
tute one of the strongest motive forces of its public 
opinion : it must, therefore, have been with mixed feel- 
ings that German residents in America read a stirring 
manifesto issued by the American Rights League : 

" Although the Fryatt case is not more shocking than 
many other acts of the German Government, it is a clear 
reminder that Germany still defies our ideas of law and 


righteousness . . . and we believe that American citizens 
ought to consider the Fryatt case, and take whatever 
action is within their power to keep it unforgotten in the 
pubHc conscience. Will you write, or, better, telegraph, 
to your Congress man at Washington, to your Senator, 
and to the State Department, protesting against the execu- 
tion of Captain Fryatt ? And will you also, by personal 
interview or by letter, bring the matter before your 
local newspaper again ? You will be told that its news 
value has passed ; will you answer that its moral chal- 
lenge has not passed ? " 

In Holland the Press was unanimous ; not even those 
sections of it which had shown German sympathies could 
find a word of excuse. The Nieuwe Rotter dams die 
Courant could only say that it would " disgust neutrals 
and arouse fresh hatred and bitterness in Britain." In 
Norway and Denmark opinion expressed itself in the same 
way. What can have been the feelings of those Germans 
who had seen the brains and treasure expended without 
stint upon propaganda, as this thunder of disapproval 
rolled in on their ears from every country in the two 
hemispheres ? 

It was possibly Admiral von Schroder's wish to impress 
the world with the relentless character of German 
power, when he brought Captain Fryatt to trial by 
methods which disregarded the form and substance of 
justice. If so, his advice was singularly unfortunate, for 
all it did was to spread over the whole German adminis- 
tration a dishonour which should have attached to him 
and Dr. Zapfel alone. If the trial and execution were 
intended as a deterrent to British seamen, the plan was 
as contemptible as it was cruel, for the case of Captain 
Fryatt, his trial and death, set up a standard of conduct 
which every British captain strove to copy. 

In England the news of Captain Fryatt's death was 
received with indignation and horror ; and we can do 
him no higher honour than to show that our first feelings 
have been justified by time and knowledge, and that he 
earned his death by asserting a principle embedded in our 
rights as a Sea Power. 

The task has been simplified by the German Govern- 
ment. In April 1919 a special Committee of Inquiry 


assembled in Berlin to see whether international law had 
been violated by the trial and sentence of Captain Fryatt. 
In their opinion it had not : nothing in the whole affair 
called for the mildest censure, except the haste with 
which the execution had been carried out. Obviously, 
then, Captain Fryatt's best defence consists in answering 
those who have continued to assert that he was justly 

First, the Committee examined the technical procedure 
of the court martial at Bruges, to see whether it had 
been competent to try the case. They found that the 
Court was competent, in that it was empowered, by an 
Imperial Edict, to try prisoners of war and foreigners 
not belonging to the armed forces of the enemy, and that 
the procedure laid down for the arrest and detention of 
persons about to be brought to trial had been complied 
with. On the first head the Committee was probably 
right ; but their ruling on the second calls for comment. 
Paragraph 4 of the Imperial Edict runs thus ; " The 
first consideration with regard to the competence of an 
authority is that the accused shall have been arrested 
by its subordinates." The Committee of Inquiry stated, 
with regard to this, that Captain Fryatt had been ar- 
rested early in July 1916, " within the jurisdiction of 
the Admiral Commanding the Marine Corps," and that 
" the competence of this command was not prejudiced 
in that Captain Fryatt was first taken to the civilian 
camp at Ruhleben, and thence transferred to Bruges." 
All available evidence tends to show that this was not so. 
As far as we can tell, Captain Fryatt was arrested at the 
gates of Ruhleben Camp — which was not in the jurisdic- 
tion of Admiral von Schroder — and there is no proof at 
all that those who arrested him belonged to the Marine 
Corps. The Committee's findings are therefore suspect 
from the start. 

The Committee next dealt with the question of Captain 
Fryatt's defence ; but it is not possible to criticise this part 
of their findings without a brief examination of German 
procedure. A long preliminary inquiry takes place before 
anybody can be brought before a German court martial. 
Those who conduct it are appointed by the local com- 
mander-in-chief ; and it is their duty to discover whether 
sufficient material exists to support an indictment and 


a prosecution. Their powers are very wide ; for they can 
examine witnesses in secret, and have full right of access 
to the accused man if he is under arrest. When they 
have finished, an indictment is made out upon their report 
and a day fixed for trial. Both the indictment and the 
date of the trial must at once be communicated to the 
accused person. As the results of this inquiry generally 
constitute the matter for the prosecution, a prisoner ought, 
obviously, to be allowed the advice of a counsel whilst it 
is being conducted ; but this the German law denies him. 
He is only allowed to consult an adviser if witnesses, who 
will not be present at the court martial, are examined at 
the preliminary proceedings. In all other cases, he must 
face the inquisition by himself. 

It is not quite clear whether Captain Fryatt should have 
been given the benefit of this permission. If Captain 
Gansser was examined by the officers of the preliminary 
inquiry, he was certainly entitled to it ; for Captain 
Gansser's evidence at the court martial was given in 
writing. But the minutes of the court martial do not 
explain how the evidence was originally obtained. All 
we know for certain is that Major Naumann thought it 
most suspicious, and maintained stoutly that it ought 
never to have been admitted. It is therefore not possible 
to settle the point outright on the available material ; 
but we can say that Captain Fryatt was denied the oppor- 
tunities of defence which the German law allows. 

When the preliminary inquiry is over, the prisoner is 
allowed to choose his own defender ; if he does not do so, 
the local commander-in-chief must appoint one ; but, 
even in this case, he must consult the prisoner's wishes.^ 

These regulations were absolutely set at nought by 
Admiral von Schroder, first, because he never gave Captain 
Fryatt any opportunity of appointing his own defender, 
and, secondly, because he never gave him the choice 
between being defended by Major Naumann or by 
the counsel whom the American Embassy would have 

The German Court of Investigation decided that there 
was " no rule of International Law " obliging the court 
martial to accede to the American Embassy's request. 

I German Military Court Regulations {MilitarstraJ Gerichtsordnung), 
§§ 337, 338, 342. 


Possibly not, but that does not excuse them for disguising 
that their own procedure had been violated. 

Harsh and rigorous as the German military law seems 
to us, it assures an accused person a proper means of defend- 
ing himself.^ First, a whole week must elapse between 
the date on which the indictment is communicated to him 
and the day of the trial, and the period can only be 
shortened with his consent. Secondly, he must be allowed, 
during that period, to communicate with his defender by 
word of mouth and in writing. Thirdly, his defender must 
have all the documents of the preliminary inquiry sent to 
him as soon as it is over. Fourthly, if the trial takes 
place before a week has elapsed since the accused man 
was first shown the indictment, the president of the court 
martial must let him know that he has a right to ask for a 
delay in the proceedings. Fifthly, it is particularly laid 
down that if the defence of the accused person has been 
hampered he may appeal.' 

The accused man is, however, deprived of nearly all 
these safeguards if the court martial is held " in the field," 
and, as these words are of great importance, it is made to 
be quite clear about their meaning. They were defined 
by a German law of 1898 in the following manner. The 
regulations governing the procedure of the military criminal 
courts held in the field hold good : (i) for the duration of 
the " mobile condition " of the army or navy, or isolated 
parts of the army or navy, and (ii) for the garrison of a forti- 
fied place, threatened by the enemy so long as the beginning 
and the end of this condition (of being threatened) has been 
notified by the governor or commandant, and (iii) for 
prisoners in enemy country, or theatres of operation, 
depots or sea and coastal war zones. This, then, is the 
clause upon which so much depends. So long as Captain 
Fryatt was at Ruhleben, or the military district in which 
Ruhleben lies, he could certainly be court martialled, but 
he would then be protected by all the rules of ordinary 
procedure. Once he had been removed from thence 
and carried within the limits of Admiral von Schroder's 
command, he was deprived of them all. No restrictions 

^ German Military Court Regulations {Militarstraf Gerichtsordnung), 
§§ 226, 267. 

* German Military Court Regulations (Militarstraf Gerichtsordnung), 
§§ 345, 275, 400. 


would then be imposed upon the Admiral and his sub- 
ordinates ; they could prepare their case as slowly and 
methodically as they wished, they could hurry on the trial 
and the sentence as much as they chose, and they could 
take full advantage of all those rules, which for the sake 
of ensuring a rapid procedure, make it so easy for the 
prosecution to obtain a conviction and so hard for an 
innocent man to prove his innocence. 

Captain Fryatt was, as we know, taken from Ruhleben 
to Bruges, and the Court of Investigation never once asked 
whether his removal was justified or necessary ; that is, 
they refused to admit any discussion as to whether justice 
had been administered in the abstract or according to the 
letter of their own code ; for Admiral von Schroder was not 
content with trying the prisoner by extraordinary martial 
law, he actually broke its provisions in his eagerness to 
obtain a conviction. 

It cannot be denied that the field procedure cancels all 
right of appeal and makes it unnecessary that a week 
should elapse between the indictment and the trial ; but 
it still allows a prisoner the right to choose his counsel, 
and to consult with him "if circumstances permit."^ 
Circumstances did permit and Captain Fryatt was denied 

Nor is this all, the court left it on record elsewhere that 
the court martial procedure laid down in the edict was 
based on the assumption that it would be put into force 
under conditions of moving warfare, and was careful to 
add that due allowance should have been made for the fact 
that these conditions did not obtain at Bruges. Now, a 
regulation which lays down that those who defend court- 
martial prisoners must be on the spot is obviously one 
which assumes a state of moving warfare ; for proceedings 
cannot be postponed, whilst armies are on the march, in 
order to allow a prisoner to consult a counsel who has to 
be sent for from a place several hundreds of miles away. 
As the court brought forward this argument when they 
considered the execution, and ignored it when they 
considered the defence, their findings are both suspect and 

Next the Committee considered whether the sentence 

1 German Military Court Regiilations (MilitarstraJ Gerichtsordnung), 


of the Court Martial at Bruges had been in accordance 
with the evidence available at the time. The question 
before them was whether Captain Fryatt's action had 
been in the nature of an attack or a defence. They 
decided that, as he had sighted the submarine at a greater 
distance than he admitted, and that, as he could have 
escaped by flight, he attacked from the moment when he 
steered straight for her. In their opinion the judgment 
agreed with the evidence. That was not a proper way 
of deciding whether Captain Fryatt attacked the sub- 
marine or defended himself. The heart of the question 
lies in the German proclamation with regard to submarine 
war. According to it submarine commanders had orders 
to attack all merchant vessels at sight, so that the mere 
appearance of a German submarine was in the nature of 
an attack, regardless of its distance away ; and Captain 
Fryatt, in command of a defenceless ship, was under no 
obligation to limit his own means of thwarting it. The 
Committee never once discussed either the proclamation 
or its consequences, and stated, merely, that Captain 
Fryatt's " last manoeuvre, carried out against a totally 
defenceless opponent, was in the nature of an attack." 
When a submarine, with torpedoes in the firing position, 
meets an unarmed merchantman at sea, she may be out- 
manoeuvred, but she is never wholly defenceless, and a 
body which uses language of the kind is not impartial. 

The Committee then raised a further question : Whether 
anything which affected the Court Martial's finding had 
been brought to light since the trial took place. Two 
documents which had not been produced before were 
examined : the log of the Brussels and the Admiralty 
instructions to merchant captains. They decided that 
the entry in the BrusseWs log supported, rather than 
weakened, the main contention. The essential part of 
that entry was that the Brussels had been " steered 
straight for the submarine " ; and it is quite reasonable 
to say that words of the kind imply an intention to 

The Admiralty instructions raised a much bigger ques- 
tion : they cut at the very root of the indictment against 
Captain Fryatt, and cleared him of the charge which had 
been laid against him. The instructions were in two 
sections. In the first merchant captains were given a 


general warning about the areas in which German sub- 
marines were likely to be met, and a set of sketches were 
added, to enable them to be distinguished at sight. Sec- 
tion II dealt with the best means of escaping from an 
attack, and opened with the sentence, " No British mer- 
chant vessel should ever tamely surrender to a sub- 
marine, but should do her utmost to escape." There 
were two ways of doing this : (i) by bringing the sub- 
marine astern, and making for the nearest land, and 
(ii) by steering straight for her if she was sighted ahead. 

Now these instructions destroyed the whole case against 
Captain Fryatt. The German military code states ex- 
plicitly that civilians who make war under the direction of 
a " war lord " cannot be regarded as francs -tirenrs ; so that, 
even admitting that Captain Fryatt had attacked the 
submarine when he steered for her, he was justified by the 
mere fact that he was acting under Admiralty instructions. 
How did the Committee get over the difficulty ? By the 
simple device of discussing that part of the Admiralty 
instructions which advised escape by flight ; by omitting 
all mention of the other, and by adding to the findings of 
the Court a mutilated copy of the instructions, from which 
every syllable which went against their contention had 
previously been expunged.^ The Committee was, there- 
fore, as dishonest as it was prejudiced, and its proceedings 
are the more disgraceful in that they were largely directed 
by men of high legal position in a country justly famous 
for the learning of its jurists and the gravity of its Courts. 

But Captain Fryatt's defence is not exhausted by the 
mere exposure of the subterfuges of this Committee. He 
was justified in acting as he did by the laws of England 
and the law of nations, and we must now go back to those 
first principles of reason and justice which establish his 

In one of its last conclusions, the Committee of Inquiry 
held that the Court Martial at Bruges was right in con- 
demning Captain Fryatt as a "" franc-tireur of the seas." 
There is no such thing. The guilt of a franc-tireur springs 
from the manner in which land war is carried on, and any 
attempt to draw analogies from war by land to war at sea 
breaks down utterly. When the armies of two nations 
are at war, all belligerent acts are directed against the 

1 See Appendices A and B. 


regular forces of each side ; and a general agreement exists 
that the civilian population shall be exempted as far as 
possible. It is quite true that this rule is very often vio- 
lated ; but breaches do not destroy a principle, any more 
than successful thieves invalidate the law against theft, and 
this general principle involves certain consequences. The 
first and most important of these is that, as the lives and 
property of civilians are to be respected by hostile armies, 
then civilians must respect the exemption which they 
enjoy. In other words, they must not take up arms. 
Those who disregard this obligation are francs -tireurs ; and 
their action is, in a certain sense, similar to that of a man 
who assaults another without provocation. But if no 
such convention existed, if a civilian's life and property 
were threatened from the moment he saw an enemy 
soldier, there would be no such thing as a franc-tireur . 
Would anybody suggest that a man who had no choice 
but to fight, or receive a bayonet in his body, would 
commit a crime if he chose to fight ? Or does any sane 
person contend that a man would have no right to de- 
fend his property if the first enemy soldier he met had 
the right to destroy or confiscate it ? Obviously not ; a 
man so placed might lose his life in defending his house and 
chattels : he would never be 3. franc-tireur . 

Now it is precisely because sea warfare is governed by 
no convention similar to the one which obtains in war 
by land, that the conduct of civilians and non-combatants 
at sea is subject to a wholly different set of rules. The 
convention with regard to property at sea is, that an enemy 
may confiscate it if he finds it, and the natural corollary 
to this is, that the owners of such property, or the persons 
into whose hands it has been confided, may defend it by 
arms if they chose to take the risk. That risk is, either 
that they may be killed outright, or made prisoners of war 
if captured. The general law of nations acknowledges 
this right to resist, but imposes no obligation. The Eng- 
lishstatute and common law go farther : not onlyis a master 
obliged to resist ; but he is allowed to compel all passengers 
on board to assist him, and to punish them if they refuse.^ 

There is, none the less, such a thing as illegal sea warfare. 
If the captain of a merchantman sailed about seizing and 

^ " The Master Mariner's Authority," WilHam Senior, Law Quarterly 


overpowering enemy merchant vessels, without any com- 
mission from his government, he would be guilty of piracy. 
But piracy involves the question of robbery, and is possible 
in war as well as peace : a pirate is not a franc-tireur, 
and there is no use in suggesting that the offence of the 
one is the same as the offence of the other (as the Com- 
mittee of Inquiry did) because the death sentence attaches 
to both. A franc-iireur of the seas would be a man who, 
without authority, cruised about the seas in war-time, 
sinking all enemy ships which he could find, simply for the 
sake of destroying them and taking life. To suggest that 
Captain Fryatt's action in March 1915 in any way re- 
sembled such a line of conduct was contrary to the known 

There is, thus, no rule of reason which forbids a merchant 
captain to resist capture at sea, and his right to do so has 
been fully admitted in practice. In the year 1799, a case 
of salvage claims arising out of the recapture of a prize 
was argued in the Admiralty Court. The claims them- 
selves do not concern us ; but the words of Sir William 
Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell, upon the right of resistance 
to capture are very relevant : 

" It is a meritorious act to join in such attempts ; and 
if there are any persons who entertain doubts as to whether 
it ought to be so regarded, I desire not to be considered 
as one of the persons who entertain any such doubts." 

This judgment was no expression of a merely personal 
opinion nor a statement of the English common law ; for, 
in the very same case. Sir William Scott described the 
Court over which he presided as a " Court of the law of 

In the year 1804, another case, involving the same 
general principle, was brought up for decision, the question 
being whether an enemy merchant captain who had seized 
his captor's ship thereby rendered his entire cargo, whether 
enemy or neutral, subject to condemnation. After hearing 
the arguments of both parties. Lord Stowell stated the 
general principle in the widest and most emphatic terms, 
and gave judgment accordingly : 

" That there is any ground for condemnation of the 


cargo in the conduct of the master cannot be maintained. 
It could only be the hostile act of a hostile person who was 
a prisoner of war, and who, unless under parole, had a 
perfect right to emancipate himself by seizing his own 
vessel. ... If a neutral attempts a rescue he violates a 
duty imposed upon him by the law of nations. . . . With 
an enemy master, the case is very different. No duty is 
violated by such an act on his part." 

In other countries, the same question has been decided 
in the same way. During the Napoleonic wars the case of 
the Pegou was brought before the Court of Cassation in 
Paris. The vessel flew the American flag, and had been con- 
demned as a prize in the Court of First Instance at Lorient 
on the ground that she had been armed for war, without 
any commission from her Government, with " ten guns of 
different calibres, musketry, and munitions of war." The 
ease was learnedly and elaborately argued, and, in giving 
judgment, Portalis was as careful in stating the basic 
principle involved, as Lord Stowell had been in the British 
Court. " Defence is a natural right, and means of defence 
are legitimate in voyages at sea, as in all other dangerous 
occupations." ^ 

The Courts of America have been equally firm. In the 
year 1815 the case of the Nereide was brought before the 
Supreme Court on appeal. The question for decision was 
whether neutral goods which had been put on board an 
armed merchant vessel, flying the flag of a country at war, 
had thereby been tainted with belligerency. On this 
point the judges could not agree ; but they were quite 
decided on the question whether resistance to capture was 
lawful. The majority of the Court, in giving judgment, 
stated that : "A belligerent [merchant] vessel had a 
perfect right to arm in his own self-defence," and the judge 
who disagreed with the general conclusion of the Court was 
careful to say, in his dissenting judgment, that a belligerent 
merchant ship " may lawfully resist search." ' This 
general right has not only been asserted in Prize Courts : it 
has been regarded as so inherent in every merchant captain 
engaged in trading and trafficking upon the high seas that 
it has influenced policy. 

* Pistoye et Duverdy : Traite de Prises Maritimes, vol. ii, p. 51. 

* Moore, Digest of International Law, vol. vii, p. 488. 


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the revolt 
of the Spanish colonies in South America started a des- 
perate guerilla warfare at sea. Being unable to equip ships 
themselves, the revolutionary Governments encouraged 
American adventurers to man and arm vessels in their 
own country, and then to sail for some harbour in the 
revolted colonies. After receiving letters of marque from 
the revolutionary Governments, they preyed upon Spanish 
commerce from one end of the Atlantic to the other. There 
was, in all this, much that was unlawful ; but, although 
the Supreme Court often refused to admit as prizes vessels 
which the Courts of the revolted colonies had declared to 
be so, and though many restitutions were ordered, the 
American Government never prevented the arming and 
equipping of these privateers. So long as there was a 
reasonable chance that the arms and munitions supplied 
were to be used in defending lawful commerce, the right 
of self-defence could not be tampered with for reasons of 

It would be enough to limit quotations to the cases 
cited ; for the law of nations is a set of customs, and not 
a written code : it is composed of what has been done and 
not of what has been written. Still, the opinions of high 
authorities are valuable, for they may draw from cases 
and judgments consequences that may not be apparent 
at a first inspection. In this matter, however, expert 
opinion neither widens nor restricts the general principle. 
It merely reasserts it ; and Oppenheim sums up the con- 
sidered opinion of the jurists — British, American, French, 
and Italian — when he states that — 

" Enemy merchant ships may be attacked only if they 
refuse to submit to visit, after having been duly signalled 
to do so. No duty exists for an enemy merchantman to 
submit to visit ; on the contrary she may refuse, and 
defend herself ' against an attack.' " 

German opinion was quite as firm. Perels stated the 
general rule without the least equivocation ; Dr. Wehberg 
repeated it in terms equally emphatic : 

" The enemy merchant ship has then the right of defence 

1 See Decisions of the Supreme Court of the U.S.A., vol. v, p. 307. 


against an enemy attack, and this right it can exercise 
against visitation, for this is, indeed, the first act of capture." 

But the German contention is not yet answered: This 
right of resistance might be admitted, the Committee stated, 
but only in the case of armed merchantmen ; unarmed 
vessels like the Brussels must submit. There is only one 
test to this argument : Do modern states divide merchant 
vessels into two classes, each with its own status, duties, 
and privileges ? If they did, the German plea would be 
sound ; but the question has been most elaborately dis- 
cussed, and the decision come to is in exactly the opposite 
sense. Previous to 1914, the British Government had 
mounted guns for defensive purposes in a number of large 
liners. As soon as the country was at war, British repre- 
sentatives abroad were instructed to explain to neutral 
Governments that such armament as might be found on 
board liners visiting their harbours was for defence alone. 
Those liners were still merchantmen, and would not be 
converted into auxiliary cruisers. 

The neutral Governments of Europe and America at 
once examined this declaration. The smaller states of 
South America made practically no comment on it, and 
admitted armed merchant vessels to their harbours as 
ordinary trading- vessels. The Government of the Argen- 
tine was more particular, and strictly enforced their port 
regulations with regard to munitions and explosives when 
armed merchantmen visited Buenos Aires ; but on the 
general principle they were most explicit : 

" Foreign merchantmen, which, without having been 
officially declared auxiliary cruisers, none the less carry 
guns for their defence, may not use them within the 
territorial waters of the State . . . but, as these vessels 
have not been given the legal position of men-of-war, any 
act of hostility which they may commit within the territorial 
waters of the State will be regarded as a criminal action, 
falling to be judged by the laws of the nation." 

Nothing could be clearer : armed merchantmen are 
simply merchant vessels. This admirable declaration seems 
to have guided the other large states of South America ; 
for the Governments of Chile and Brazil informed the 


British Foreign Office soon after that they were satisfied 
with the assurance given. 

In the United States the British declaration was 
examined with the greatest care. The question made 
feeling run high, and, in the House of Representatives, 
one member after another urged that British armed 
merchantmen should only be admitted to American ports 
as auxiliary cruisers. For a time it seemed as though 
the Secretary of State might bow before the storm ; 
but Senators Sterling and Lodge caused the question to 
be examined afresh, and when at last the Administration 
made up its mind, the decision given was singularly 
emphatic : " Merchantmen of belligerent nationality, 
armed only for purposes of protection against the enemy, 
are entitled to enter and leave neutral ports without 
hindrance in the course of their legitimate trade." That 
is, a merchantman does not change its character by the 
mere fact that it is defensively armed, and the rights, 
privileges, and status of merchantmen are uniform. 

The neutral states of Europe decided in the same way ; 
the Spanish Government simply made the captains of 
armed merchant vessels give assurances that they would 
not use their weapons for offensive purposes, and treated 
their ships like ordinary traders ; the Scandinavian 
Government accepted the British declaration without 
comment. There was, it is true, one exception. The 
Netherlands Government refused to admit armed merchant- 
men to their European ports in war-time ; but the reasons 
for that refusal, on examination, leave the basic question 
quite untouched. The Netherlands Government never 
suggested that armed and unarmed merchantmen had a 
different legal status, but stated simply that the position 
of Holland in the North Sea made it imperative that the 
Government should protect its territorial waters from being 
the theatre of temporary hostilities. The British Govern- 
ment did not like it at the time, but the argument was 
reasonable. An armed merchantman in the Flanders 
bight, steaming from a submarine at the top of her speed, 
might easily be carried over to the Dutch shore. Shots 
would certainly be exchanged during the pursuit, and all 
the tiresome consequences of acts of war committed in 
neutral waters would follow. The rule of the Netherlands 
Government was therefore based upon policy and con- 


venience, and, to make its position quite clear, armed 
merchant vessels were admitted to harbours in the Dutch 
colonies on the same terms as ordinary trading-vessels. 

Europe reached the same conclusions as the American 
states, and the distinction which the German Committee 
of Inquiry strove to make between armed and unarmed 
merchantmen was no distinction at all. They only 
attempted to make it because the German prize code 
allows the right of an armed merchantman to resist 
capture, and they did not dare face the consequences of 
their own rule of war. The right to arm is meaningless 
unless the wider right of self-defence is admitted, and an 
impartial body would have confessed outright that Captain 
Fryatt's action was justified by reason, by practice, and by 
the laws of the German Empire. 

How did the German Committee of Inquiry escape from 
this cataract of testimony ? It argued that a merchant 
captain's right to resist capture was still undecided, not 
because Prize Courts had disputed it, or because it had 
been questioned in practice, but because some writers 
had asserted the contrary. Upon what writers did they 
rely ? Upon two delegates at the meeting of the Institut 
du Droit International at Oxford in 1913, whose reserva- 
tion on the matter disputed could not have been extended 
to submarine warfare ; upon a few isolated writers in the 
British daily press ; upon a contributor to a publication 
called Concord; and upon Dr. Schramm, who, "as con- 
fidential adviser to the German Admiralty, voiced the 
opinion of the German Naval Staff." Having confronted 
the accumulated judgment of centuries with these con- 
trary opinions, the Committee of Inquiry decided that 
the Court Martial at Bruges committed no breach of in- 
ternational law in following Dr. Schramm upon a point 
so keenly disputed. If the import and meaning of the 
law of nations are to be thus expounded ; if it is to be 
open to all who wish to settle a point, to pick out 
opinions favourable to their own view from the enormous 
literature of international law, and call them proof of 
a contention, then, what has hitherto been called the 
science of international jurisprudence becomes, at once, a 
vast system of casuistry, which awaits the coming of a 
second Pascal to fall into universal contempt. 

But international law is not built up of " probable 
II- 23 


opinions," nor is it the product of learned minds. It is 
the recorded custom of civihsed peoples, and the true 
meaning of those customs may be rightly or wrongly in- 
terpreted. Captain Fryatt's innocence is alike attested by 
British history, by British laws, and by British privileges 
at sea. He upheld a right which is vital to those who 
go down to the sea, and defended it with constancy, 
loyalty, and unflinching courage. His body now rests 
in the cemetery at Harwich, and a memorial at Bruges 
commemorates his life and death. He committed no 
crime in national or international law, and the British 
people instinctively have paid, and will continue to pay, 
high honour to his memory as a martyr to a great cause. 


THE enemy's final PLUNGE 

When the German Government abandoned what was 
in fact, if not in name, unrestricted submarine warfare in 
the spring of 1916, its Ministers and advisers were divided 
into three groups of opinion. First, the Imperial Chan- 
cellor and some of his assistants, like Helfferich, looked upon 
the concession as a first step towards a general peace 
to be effected by President Wilson's mediation ; secondly, 
there was a powerful group of military men who, though 
they did not like submitting to American pressure, none 
the less admitted that it was the best course to take ; 
thirdly, there was the solid block of naval officers holding 
high rank who bitterly regretted the Chancellor's con- 
cession, and were determined to reverse it if they could. 

It was only natural, perhaps, that the officers of the 
German Navy should have been deeply stirred by the 
prospect which had opened before their eyes. Early in the 
year the Chief of the Staff, General von Falkenhayn, 
had stated that the German Army could not finish the 
war without naval co-operation ; and the assistance for 
which he craved was an attack on the Allied, and particu- 
larly the British, lines of communication so powerful 
that it would sensibly diminish the volume of military 
supplies to the chief theatres of war. 

Falkenhayn's appeal had produced a remarkable effect 
on naval opinion, and particularly on the junior officers 
and no small proportion of the men. He had suggested 
that the hour had struck for the young German Navy to 
win lasting glory. It had lived since its birth in humiliating 
subordination to the other service, and now saw a unique 
opportunity in the Chief of the Staff's admission. Could 
they but carry through the task assigned to them, the 
share of German naval officers would be equal to that of 
the leaders of the Army ; they would rank in fame with the 



Roman Consul who " had not despaired of the repubhc " 
in her darkest hours ; they would be raised to an equal 
place in German history with the Scharnhorsts, the 
Derfiaingers, and the Bluchers ; and they would live in 
future years as the men whom Imperial Germany delighted 
to honour. 

During the ten months between May 1916 and February 
1917, two of these currents of opinion struggled for mas- 
tery, for the military party, which " pursued the middle 
course," soon disappeared and was replaced by another 
which became the chief advocate of the strictly naval 
standpoint. The Chancellor, striving for a negotiated 
peace, was thus confronted with a navy, supported in 
influential quarters, demanding submarine warfare on 
a scale which would make negotiations impossible. In 
the end the Navy won ; but it was only by a narrow 

It is not within the scope of this history to trace the 
diplomatic negotiations carried on by the Chancellor and 
Count Bernstorff during this ten months ; both men 
pressed them forward steadily and ably, and, as they 
worked with the Emperor's full approval, they were able 
to keep naval pressure in check, so long as they had the 
smallest hope of success. The naval leaders thus saw 
the splendid perspective, which had been opened to them 
by General von Falkenhayn's appreciation, grow fainter 
and more distant, but they never despaired of reaching 
their goal, and the history of the submarine campaign 
between April 1916 and February 1917 is the history of 
the German Navy's effort to make its will prevail in the 
Empire's councils. 

At the outset they had to secure union amongst them- 
selves, for they were sharply divided. Admiral Scheer, 
in command of the High Seas Fleet, hoped to force the 
hand of those with whom the decision lay, by refusing 
to allow the submarines to operate against commerce like 
surface cruisers, claiming that the conditions exposed 
officers and men to risks which they should not be called 
upon to face, and that, in any event, the limited warfare 
could not attain its objective. By sullenly adopting an 
" all or nothing " attitude, and by keeping the submarine 
flotillas idle at their moorings in the Jade and the Ems, 
he seems to have hoped that he would raise such in- 


dignation in the hard-pressed Fatherland that the 
Chancellor would be compelled to give way. Admiral 
von Holtzendorff was convinced that such an attitude 
was unwise. He was in favour of keeping the submarines 
at work in order to make their achievements the basis 
of a demand for greater latitude. His view prevailed, 
and the first phase of this new period is the one in which 
the German submarines adapted themselves to their new 
orders, and endeavoured to show what results they could 
achieve in spite of their adherence, more or less strictly, 
to the restrictions of cruiser warfare. This phase stretched 
right on into the autumn of the year 1916, by which time 
the U-boats had crawled down the trade routes and were 
operating off the Azores, on the track to Archangel, in the 
White Sea, and on the western side of the Atlantic. The 
British Naval Staff in Whitehall had watched their prog- 
ress with the anxiety of a physician who studies the steady, 
unrelenting spread of a harmful symptom. 

In the next phase the U-boats closed up their areas of 
activity slightly ; and in the third and last they steadily 
and persistently intensified their efforts in the theatres 
which their experience had shown to be most promising. 
This final period simply marks an effort on the part of the 
Navy to break through the restrictions by which they 
were bound. Its incidents supply proof of what Karl 
Helfferich had foreseen when he said : "I could never 
get it out of my mind that when the Lords of the Navy 
said extended submarine warfare, they meant unrestricted 
submarine warfare." The remark was true. During 
the autumn months of 1916 the number of vessels 
sunk without warning rose steadily, until, at the begin- 
ning of the New Year, the pretence of attacking com- 
merce according to the rules of cruiser warfare had worn 
very thin ; and when, in February 1917, the Chancellor 
announced that Germany was compelled to resume 
intensive submarine warfare owing to the rejection of her 
peace proposals, he was announcing what had, to all 
intents and purposes, become an accomplished fact. 

The execution of Captain Fryatt at the end of July, 
and the indignation which that event aroused throughout 
the civilised world, was not without its influence, as has 
been suggested, on the enemy's submarine policy. The 
result of the Battle of Jutland had prompted Admiral 


Scheer to renew his representations to the Emperor. 
" A victorious end to the war at not too distant a date," 
he wrote, " can only be looked for by the crushing of 
English economic life through U-boat action against 
English commerce." The advice of the Commander- 
in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet in favour of intensive 
warfare was, however, unacceptable at the moment, and 
the record of ship sinkings during the month of August 
reflected the confusion of policy which prevailed in 
the official world of Germany at this period. During 
August only twenty-two ships, of 42,553 tons, were sunk 
by submarine, with the loss of five lives. The one vessel 
which was torpedoed without warning was the Aaro 
(2,603 tons). A wireless message from Berlin announced, 
in pursuance with the official German policy of the 
moment, that the Aaro had been blown up by a " war- 
ship," it being added that " there seems to be little hope 
of anyone being saved." The deliberate misrepresenta- 
tion was only revealed later on. While on a voyage to 
Christiania the ship was sunk in the North Sea by a 
submarine. Only three lives were, in fact, lost, and the 
remainder, including the master (Mr. Harry Newton), 
were taken prisoners and interned at Tielmen. On the 
same day the Heighington (2,800 tons) was captured and 
torpedoed off Cape Serrat. On succeeding days a number 
of small ships were secured by the enemy, but in no case 
were any members of the crew either killed or taken 

During this period the enemy still continued his activities 
in the Mediterranean. The remainder of the month sup- 
plied only two outstanding incidents — the destruction of 
the Swedish Prince (3,712 tons) in the Eastern Mediter- 
ranean, when on passage to Bizerta, and the loss of the 
Duart (3,108 tons) off the Algerian coast on the 31st. On 
the morning of the 17th the former vessel was steaming 
in company with the Astereas when a submarine was seen. 
The Swedish Prince, which had a gun on board, immediately 
warned her unarmed companion of the submarine's 
presence, and both vessels altered course to southward at 
full speed. Within a quarter of an hour a duel had 
developed between the enemy and the defensively armed 
merchantman, but the 3-pounder gun of the British 
vessel proved useless at the range selected by the sub- 


marine. Nine or ten shots struck the Swedish Prince, the 
second officer receiving wounds from which he afterwards 
died. The contest was a hopeless one, so the master (Mr. 
J. A. Halloway) at last ordered the engines to be stopped. 
While preparations were being made to abandon the ship, 
the submarine continued firing, and then, coming alongside 
the ship's boats to which the crew had taken refuge, made 
Captain Halloway, the chief engineer (Mr. William Poole), 
and the gunner, a Frenchman, prisoners. The chief 
officer and the remainder of the crew eventually reached 
Port Pantellaria without further misadventure. The 
Duart on the last day of the month fell a victim to an 
Austrian submarine. 

Of the thirteen ships, of 34,862 tons, which escaped cap- 
ture in August, possibly the most notable case was that 
of the little Hull steamer, the Destro (859 tons). On the 
afternoon of August 3rd, when nine miles N.E. by E. 
of Coquet Island, a submarine opened fire from her 
two guns. The master of the Destro (Mr. Edward B. 
Johnson) had no defence except his speed, but he at once 
brought the submarine astern of him. Time and again 
the Destro was hit. The enemy repeatedly manoeuvred to 
get on the quarter of the British vessel. At last Captain 
Johnson thought an opportunity offered to ram the enemy, 
so he put his helm hard over, but the submarine did the 
same. As a result of this manoeuvre, the Destro gained an 
increased lead, but it was not until the unequal action had 
lasted fifty minutes that the enemy abandoned the chase. 
By that time the ship's boats had been badly damaged by 
gunfire and the funnel had been holed, making stoking 
very difficult, while the bridge and deck-house, as well as 
the ladders and compass, had all suffered in greater or less 
degree. Captain Johnson was awarded the D.S.C. for his 
determined resistance, and the chief engineer (Mr. T, 
Martin) was mentioned in despatches. 

Another illustration of the fine courage which British 
seamen were exhibiting was furnished by the Strathness 
(4,345 tons). She was in the Mediterranean when she was 
attacked at a range of 5,000 yards. The enemy dis- 
charged thirty shots without hitting the ship, and the 
Strathness, with her 15-pounder, replied with twenty-five 
rounds ; one of them struck the submarine and caused a 
large volume of smoke to rise from her. Her captain 


evidently concluded that he had met a tartar and made 
off. For the second time in the course of a short period, 
the master (Mr. David Thompson) had fought a successful 
action against submarines, and he was mentioned in 

The losses in September rose ; thirty-four ships, of 84,596 
tons, were destroyed by submarines and sixteen lives were 
sacrificed. Nine ships were sunk without warning, supply- 
ing an indication of the little respect which some of the 
German officers operating at sea had for the superior 
orders which they had received. All these infractions of 
the rules of cruiser warfare happened in the Mediterranean. 
The heaviest loss of life occurred in the latter half of the 
month, when the enemy exhibited a new phase of ruthless- 
ness. Six members of the crew of the Inverbervie (4,309 
tons) were killed on the 14th, and three days later the Lord 
Tredegar (3,856 tons) and the Dewa (3,802 tons) went down 
off Malta, four lives and three lives respectively being lost. 
Throughout the month the enemy pursued the new policy 
of making prisoners, taking off defensively armed ships 
the gunners as well as the masters. 

The story of the circumstances in which the Roddam 
(3,218 tons) was captured seventy-six miles east-south- 
east from Barcelona may serve as an example of the 
conditions in which merchant shipping at this period 
was carried on. On the morning of September 26th 
the Roddam was making her way home to England, 
when a French torpedo-boat destroyer signalled that 
a submarine had been seen some hours before, making 
a course which would bring her near the Roddam. The 
master changed his course and went on his way. A 
short time afterwards another French destroyer issued 
another warning, and gave the master a change of 
course which would, it was thought, ensure the safety 
of his ship. As soon as she was well away on her new 
course, a submarine opened fire at long range. The 
weather was fine and the atmosphere clear, but the captain, 
though he must have realised the penalty he was incurring 
at the hands of the enemy — the submarine was flying the 
Austrian flag — ran up his ensign and replied with the one 
little gun available. The resistance was, of course, hope- 
less, but it was characteristic of the spirit in which merchant 
seamen of this period were confronting the enemy. We 


have in the sworn statement of the second officer, Mr. A. A. 
French, an unadorned record of the way in which the ship 
met her fate : 

" At 4 o'clock p.m. I was reheved from the bridge and 
went below at about half -past four. I heard a shell come 
across the bridge, and I then ran up to the bridge and saw 
the submarine at about 4.35 p.m. The captain gave me 
the order to keep the ship's stern to the submarine and 
ordered the gunners to return fire, which was done. We 
ran for about fifteen minutes until a shell exploded in the 
chart-house. The captain then ordered the boats to be 
got ready. The gunners came aft and reported that we 
were hopelessly outranged. The ship was stopped and 
the boats pulled away. 

" The submarine when first seen was three and a half to 
four miles away, and remained at that distance ; the range 
of our gun, which was a 6-pounder, was only two miles, and 
all our shots dropped short. The submarine fired some 
twenty shots at us and we fired about ten in return. The 
submarine came up to my boat (the master's boat) and 
told the captain he was a prisoner for having fired upon 
him. The commander of the submarine then took the 
captain on board and sent him below. Noticing that our 
boat was holed, the submarine towed us back to our ship, 
allowing us to go on board to get another boat as long as 
we kept away from the gun platform. We went on board 
and lowered the motor-boat out, into which I placed eight 
men. About this time we lost sight of the mate's boat 
and did not see her again. When we were off the ship the 
submarine approached and fired four shots into the 
Roddam ; when we last saw her at 7 p.m., when it fell 
dark, she had a very heavy list and was sinking. We 
were picked up by the French motor patrol Frippone next 
day at 1 p.m., and taken to Marseilles. . . . When I 
went on board I found the cabin saloon and chart-house 
all smashed up by the shell which struck us." 

Whether any of the officers and men of the Roddam 
would live to tell the tale of their adventures must have 
seemed at one time doubtful. Darkness had fallen and 
a gale had sprung up. The two well-laden boats were 
thirty-five miles away from the nearest land, and they 


soon became separated. Mr. French has described how 
he and his companions were rescued, but it was not until 
some time later that news reached the Admiralty that the 
chief officer's boat had been picked up by a neutral vessel 
and taken into Valentia. That any of the crew survived 
was due to the fine seamanship exhibited by the chief 
officer and the second officer as they struggled in conditions 
of sea and weather which might well have paralysed the 
initiative and courage of less dauntless men. 

If the sinkings during the month were heavy, the number 
of vessels which escaped — twenty-nine, of 122,933 tons — 
was also large. The captain of the Bellview (Mr. James 
S. Churchill) in particular well earned the D.S.C. which 
was conferred upon him in recognition of the manner in 
which he saved his ship. When on passage from Malta 
to Port Said on the 17th, a submarine was sighted on the 
starboard beam only three miles away. Captain Churchill 
followed what had now become the well-established routine 
in the service, putting on full steam and bringing the 
enemy astern of him. The submarine dived, but ten 
minutes later came up again on the starboard quarter. 
Though the range was 6,000 yards, the British vessel 
opened fire with the one 15-pounder gun which she mounted. 
By a happy chance the Bellview (3,567 tons) was carrying 
four motor-launches, and the 13-pounder guns in two of 
these little ships were brought into action. It was well 
that the Bellview possessed this additional defence, for 
after ten rounds had been fired, her 15-pounder became 
disabled, and the safety of the ship then depended upon 
the efficient use of the 13-pounders, which continued to fire 
unremittingly. Three hours after the submarine had been 
sighted a shell struck one of the motor-launches and, 
passing through her, penetrated the ship's hold. But 
events were to show that the Bellview had fired better in 
the contest than the enemy, who at half -past one, having 
apparently been hit, turned broadside to the ship and 
" when last seen appeared to be sinking by the stern." 

About a week later another merchant officer, the master 
(Mr. G. R. Thompson) of the Dunrobin (3,617 tons), also 
gained the D.S.C. for the manner in which he fought his 
ship, a vessel capable of steaming only 7| knots and carry- 
ing only one 15-pounder gun. It was on the morning of 
the 26th when a submarine appeared two miles distant 


from the British vessel, and Captain Thompson had barely 
succeeded in bringing the enemy astern, when a determined 
duel opened. After an interval of forty-five minutes the 
submarine appeared to be in difficulties and ceased firing. 
A high-explosive shell was then discharged by the Dunrohin 
and it struck the submarine near the conning-tower, 
causing an explosion ; smoke rose in the air to a height of 
30 feet. As the smoke cleared away it was seen that the 
conning-towTr had been injured, and three common shells 
in quick succession were fired, and fired so accurately that 
each of them found its target. The submarine's stern by 
this time was high out of the water, and the last that was 
seen of her was when she was diving in haste at an angle of 
45 degrees. Though the Dunrobin was hit once, she 
emerged from the action triumphant, having suffered no 

Before the month was out the Strathness again came 
under attack, Captain Thompson having since the last 
occasion been succeeded by Captain L. Barnett. Once 
more the value of her 15-pounder gun under efficient 
control was illustrated. For an hour and a half she was 
under fire off Dragonera Island, and though she fired 
only 57 rounds to the enemy's 150 rounds, she won the 

The German naval authorities, having successfully in- 
vaded the Mediterranean, were intent at this stage of the 
war on demonstrating in the eyes of the world the extended 
range of their newer and larger type of submarine. In 
the autumn of 1916, to the unbounded satisfaction of the 
people of the Fatherland, they were able to produce 
evidence that these vessels could be employed not merely 
in the Arctic Ocean, but even as far away as the coast of 
America. Indications of submarine activity on the route 
to Archangel — a route of great importance to this country 
owing to the necessity of importing pit-props — were 
furnished in the early days of October by the disappear- 
ance of the Brantingham (2,617 tons). Of the fate of this 
ship no positive evidence was ever received. She left 
Archangel on October 2nd and presumably she was tor- 
pedoed without warning, the master and his twenty-three 
companions being drowned. At this period German sub- 
marines were known to be off the coast of Lapland, and 
several Allied and neutral ships had been attacked and, in 


some cases, sunk. The state of the weather was not such 
as to support the beHef that the Brantingham had foun- 
dered. Other ships, including the Petunia and the Mordant, 
which subsequently passed over much the same route, saw 
no vestige of wreckage of any description. All reasonable 
doubt as to the fate of the Brantingham was subsequently 
dispelled by the admission of the German wireless that 
she had been torpedoed on October 4th. , 

Whether the complete disappearance of this ship and 
all on board her was part of a deliberate policy which was 
being pursued by some of the enemy submarines is open 
to doubt, but at any rate about this time the German 
charge d'affaires in the Argentine suggested that merchant 
ships of the friendly country to which he was accredited 
should be spurlos versenkt — sunk without leaving a trace. 
This policy had already been recommended by a German 
professor. Discussing the methods to be adopted by 
submarines at sea. Professor Flamm, of Charlottenberg, 
had declared that " the best would be if destroyed neutral 
ships disappeared without leaving a trace, and with every- 
thing on board, because terror would very soon keep sea- 
men and travellers away from the danger zones and thus 
save a number of lives." To what extent this advice, 
which found official expression in the message from Count 
Luxburg, the charge d'affaires in the Argentine, was acted 
upon can be judged only by events. That this barbarous 
policy was pursued in the case of the Rappahannock 
(3,871 tons) was placed, in any event, beyond question. 
This vessel sailed from Halifax on October 17th and she 
was never heard of again. Evidence eventually reached 
the Admiralty which led to the conviction that the Rap- 
pahannock (master, Mr. Richard Garrett) was destroyed 
on October 26th seventy miles from the Scillies. Of the 
officers and men on board, including the master, who 
numbered thirty-seven, not one survived. The Germans 
in this, as in many other cases, assumed that " dead men 
tell no tales" ; but in fact these men, though dead, continued 
to bear damning evidence to the methods which the enemy 
was pursuing at sea, for the Germans admitted, through 
their wireless, that she had been sunk by a submarine, and 
the conclusion as to how she had been destroyed was 
obvious to all Allied and neutral countries. Towards the 
end of the month the North Wales (4,072 tons, master, 


Mr. G. Owen) also disappeared without trace, and the only 
evidence of her fate was supplied a month later by the 
washing ashore of one of her boats at Penzance, and several 
bodies were also cast up by the sea and identified as those 
of members of the crew. In this case, as well as in others, 
these murdered seamen bore damning evidence against 
the Germans. 

The loss of life which accompanied the sinking of the 
Astoria (4,262 tons) was also heavy. The ship fell in with 
two submarines on October 9th. Hardly had she stopped 
in answer to the peremptory signal, when a torpedo was 
put into her and she disappeared 120 miles from Vardo. 
The enemy had no consideration for these hapless seamen, 
and the wonder is that half survived the ordeal to which 
they were submitted in these Arctic waters. 

The month of October was also notable by reason of the 
destruction of three British, as well as several neutral, 
ships off the American coast. The German naval authori- 
ties had determined to demonstrate to the American 
people the long range of action possessed by such a sub- 
marine as the U53, with a displacement of 700 tons. If 
the Americans were thereby frightened into silence regard- 
ing the German barbarities at sea, so much the less chance 
of their intervening in the war. On September 17th Hans 
Rose, in command of this submarine, was directed to cross 
the Atlantic and to lie off the American coast in anticipa- 
tion of the passage to the United States of the merchant 
submarine Bremen. When the war broke out Germany 
was building a number of large submarines for the 
Argentine. They had been designed for operating in 
the Atlantic, and consequently were considerably larger 
than the type which was being passed into the German 
Navy — having a displacement of 1,500 to 2,000 tons. 
The success with which these vessels had been used by 
the Germans, in military operations, suggested the fitting 
out of two of them, the Bremen and the Deutschland, as 
cargo -carrying craft, in the hope that they might not only 
bring back to Germany much-needed supplies of various 
easily transportable materials, but might produce a psycho- 
logical effect on the minds of neutrals, and particularly 
of the Americans. The Deutschland made the passage 
with success, bringing back a limited quantity of dyes, of 
which the Germans were in great need. She returned 


home on August 24th, and her running of the blockade ^ 
prompted the fitting out of the Bremen. 

The Bremen was dispatched from Germany in the fall 
of 1916, and U53 was sent in advance in order that she 
might search for and attack Allied vessels which, it was 
anticipated, would be waiting off New London with the 
intention of intercepting the submarine merchantman. 
The U-boat, when this task was completed, was to proceed 
to Newport, Rhode Island, and then, after as short a delay- 
as possible, was to return to Germany. The Bremen 
failed to reach her destination and the Germans had to 
mourn another serious loss. U53 saw and heard nothing 
of her, and in due course entered the harbour of Newport. 
Having paid a number of official visits, she reached Nan- 
tucket Lightship early on the morning of October 8th on 
her way home. Commander Rose calculated that in the 
clear, calm weather which prevailed, he might give an 
exhibition of the powers of long-range action which resided 
in the submarine which he commanded. He was not 
disappointed. In the course of the day he stopped no 
fewer than seven steamers, and among them were three 
British ships, the Strathdene (4,321 tons), the West Point 
(3,847 tons), and the Stephana (3,449 tons). Happily, 
owing to the precautions which had been adopted by the 
American naval authorities, the destruction of these three 
fine ships was accompanied by no loss of life. 

Commander Rose, acting in marked contrast to many of 
his companions in the German submarine service, behaved 
with a certain measure of humanity. In the case of the 
Stephana, the enemy was confronted with the problem of 
dealing with a well-laden passenger ship. A Paul Jones 
would have let her pass, even though he were not prompted 
to that course by political considerations. Commander 
Rose, however, could not resist the temptation of teaching 
the Americans a lesson in ruthlessness, for most of the 
passengers, who numbered ninety-three, were returning 
to New York from a holiday cruise to Newfoundland. 
Time was allowed for the passengers and crew to lower the 
boats and leave the ship, and they were immediately 
accommodated on board the United States destroyers 
which were in the vicinity. The American naval authorities 

^ On setting out on a second voyage across the Atlantic, the Deutschland 
was sunk by a British patrol. 

CH. xvi] A FINE EXAMPLE 349 

had, indeed, sent out several small craft on the assumption 
that American men-of-war could at least assist in saving 
life, though they could not interfere with operations 
carried on outside the three-mile limit. In the case of the 
Strathdene (master, Mr. George Wilson), U53, observing 
another ship to the westward, left the crew to make 
their way as best they could in their own boat towards 
Nantucket Lightship, and they were eventually rescued 
by an American destroyer. Later in the morning, how- 
ever, when the West Point (master, Mr. F. J. Harnden) 
was intercepted, U53 showed a greater measure of con- 
sideration, though Captain Harnden had given no little 
trouble before surrendering. After the merchantman had 
been sunk by gunfire, the submarine took in tow the two 
lifeboats, and did not leave Captain Harnden and his 
companions until they were within about six miles of the 
lightship. That evening they were all taken on board an 
American destroyer and reached New York in safety. 

While these events were occurring in the Arctic Ocean 
and off the American coast, the enemy was still at work in 
the waters surrounding the British Isles, as well as in the 
Mediterranean. In several instances the circumstances 
in which ships were destroyed exhibited the insubordination 
of German submarine officers, in relation to the Imperial 
orders they had received, if, indeed, those orders were 
intended to be taken literally. In the case of the British 
India steamship Momhassa (master. Commander R. F. 
Thomson, R.N.R.) a fine example of life-saving work was 
supplied. The Momhassa left London on October 11th, 
and, after calling at Gibraltar for instructions on the 16th, 
proceeded on her voyage. Early on the morning of the 
20th a French destroyer signalled "What ship?" On 
the signal being answered, the destroyer reduced her 
speed to that of the liner and proceeded to bear her 
company. This protection proved of no avail in saving 
the Momhassa, for a few minutes later an explosion shook 
the vessel from stem to stern. She had been torpedoed 
without warning, although she carried nineteen pas- 
sengers, as well as a crew of 109. A wireless call was sent 
out, passengers were roused, and the boats were speedily 
manned. Within five minutes of the Momhassa being 
struck, all the boats were clear of the ship, which four 
minutes later disappeared. Captain Thomson, having 


directed these operations successfully, was himself the last 
to leave the vessel ; he dived overboard and was picked 
up by one of the boats. One secunni, who must have 
hidden himself away, lost his life, but the rest of the crew, 
as well as the passengers, were taken into Bougie by the 
French destroyer and received the kindest treatment from 
the inhabitants, as well as from the Italian Consul, From 
first to last nothing was seen of the submarine. A Naval 
Court was afterwards held, and it found that, as the vessel 
was torpedoed without any warning, no blame attached 
to Captain Thomson or anyone else, and that everything 
was done to save life. The expedition with which the 
ship was cleared was held to have been " a masterly per- 
formance." It was added that " particular credit must 
be given to Mr. Russell, second engineer, who, knowing 
from the inrush of water into the funnel that the vessel 
was doomed, used his own discretion to stop the ship 
before the receipt of orders from the bridge, and was thus 
undoubtedly instrumental in saving many lives." The 
Court recorded that " the chief sarang and some members 
of the native crew appeared to have done their duty. 
The passengers, men and women alike, behaved in an 
exemplary manner." 

Another vessel which suffered from the complete dis- 
regard of the superior German orders, which had been so 
industriously advertised to the world, was the Marina 
(5,204 tons). She was on her way from Glasgow to the 
United States, and was off the Fastnet on the afternoon 
of October 28th when she was torpedoed without warn- 
ing. Of the crew of 104, eighteen were drowned. This 
ship had on board a number of American citizens, and 
they and the other survivors were in the ship's boats 
for over thirty hours before they were picked up by a 
patrol-vessel and landed in Ireland. Nothing was seen 
of the submarine before the attack. The first intimation 
that the ship was in danger came when a torpedo struck 
the Marina amidships on the starboard side. Though 
the British vessel was defensively armed, she had no 
chance of putting up a defence. There seemed some hope 
that she might still survive in spite of the heavy seas 
that were running, but ten minutes later a second torpedo 
struck her on the port side and the blow proved mortal, 
the ship breaking in two and going down almost at once. 


The submarine came to the surface, and her officers and 
men watched impassively the consummation of their deadly- 
work, and then disappeared without offering succour to 
the seamen and passengers in the dire emergency which 
confronted them. As one American passenger afterwards 
remarked : " They did not give warning, nor did they 
warn us either when the submarine came round to fire on 
the port side, while we were in the lifeboats and almost 
beside the sinking ship. I guess that is not playing the 
game." The destruction of the Marina attracted the 
attention, as might be expected, of the American Govern- 
ment, and the unsatisfactory explanation furnished by 
the enemy of this breaking of the pledge which had been 
so solemnly given was not without its influence on public 
opinion in the United States. 

With the record of the unhappy fate of the crews of 
the Cabotia (4,309 tons) and the Marchioness (553 tons) the 
story of the experiences of British merchant seamen in the 
month of October must close. Towards the former ship 
no mercy was shown either by the sea or by the enemy. 
She fought a gale across the Atlantic on her way to Liver- 
pool, but she fought it with success, though she was con- 
tinually swept by the angry seas. On October 20th, 
as she was labouring heavily, a fierce wind blowing from 
the south-west, a submarine was sighted on the starboard 
bow, and at once opened fire with her forward gun. The 
Cabotia was 120 miles from Tory Island, and she possessed 
no armament with which her crew could attempt to pur- 
chase, at however great a risk, immunity from the hard- 
ships which the taking to their small boats suggested. 
They were twelve hours' steaming from the nearest land, 
and whether they could reach it in such frail craft as they 
had at their command was the thought which must have 
passed through the minds of a good many of the little 
company on board, numbering seventy-four, as the first 
shot struck the steamer about midship on the starboard 

There was no possibility of effective defence, but the 
master nevertheless turned the Cabotid's stern to the 
submarine and put on full speed. Every five minutes 
the submarine fired a shot, and she secured four hits. 
The captain then ordered all the boats to be swung out, 
though everyone realised that they could not live long in 



such a sea. In the meantime the Cabotia managed to 
keep the enemy astern, but gradually the distance between 
the two vessels was lessening. The position was seen to 
be hopeless. The engines were stopped and four boats 
were lowered, manned, and got clear of the steamer without 
mishap. The submarine, having given the Cabotia 
another shot, went alongside another steamer which was 
approaching. The boats proceeded in the same direction, 
hoping to be picked up ; but the stranger, after com- 
municating with the U-boat, blew two blasts on her whistle 
and continued on her course, without a thought for the 
mariners fighting for life in the heavy seas which were 

Two of the boats of the Cabotia were never seen again, 
and small wonder in view of the storm which was raging. 
It was little short of a miracle that the other two boats 
survived. Throughout the night the second officer and 
his companions pulled steadily with faint hope, for they 
realised that the nearest land was 120 miles away ; but as 
the dawn was breaking it became possible to set a sail, 
and a few hours later a patrol-boat appeared and the 
little group of seamen, drenched to the skin, cold to the 
marrow, and exhausted by their labours, found safety. 
A search for the other three boats was then begun, and 
twenty minutes later the chief officer's boat was sighted 
and its occupants were also rescued. Throughout that 
day and all the succeeding night, and on the following 
day, a patrol- vessel thrashed the waters, hoping against 
hope to find the master's and third officer's boats, but 
no trace of them could be discovered. In these circum- 
stances thirty-two more men were murdered as a result 
of the ruthless policy pursued by the enemy's officers in 
face of the protestations which had been made in the ears 
of Americans and other neutrals. 

But not a few British ships evaded the enemy during the 
month of October. Thirty-two, of 125,770 tons, though 
molested, escaped. It would be to do an injustice to the 
officers and crews of these ships to omit mention of the 
fine defence put up by the Ellerman liner Fabian (2,246 
tons). This ship (master, Mr. W. J. Price) left Almeria 
on October 19th bound for Manchester. After passing 
about fifteen miles to westward of Ushant six days later, 
a heavy west-north-westerly gale sprang up with very 


thick weather. Captain Price thought it too dangerous 
to pass between the ScilHes and Land's End, so the vessel 
was headed to pass outside the SciUies. The wind con- 
tinued to back, and the Fabian passed ten miles west of 
the Bishop Rock at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 26th, 
making about 6 knots. What happened afterwards 
Captain Price himself subsequently recorded: 

" After passing Bishop Rock the course was shaped for 
the Smalls, and at 7.10 a.m. on the 26th a shot was fired, 
Avhich struck the water about fifty yards on the port beam. 
A submarine was then observed about one and three- 
quarter miles on the port beam, proceeding on the same 
course as the Fabian. The helm was at once put hard 
to port to bring the submarine astern, and whilst the vessel 
was swinging on her helm a second shot was fired, which 
passed over the bridge. A third shot was then fired, 
which struck the ship on the port side in the bunkers. 
By this time our gun, which was a 3-pounder Vickers- 
Maxiin quick-firer, was able to bear and fire was opened 
on the submarine at a range of about two miles. The 
submarine then gave chase to the ship, and an exchange 
of shots took place, but, owing to the rough state of the sea, 
aiming was difficult. The ship was manoeuvred to keep the 
submarine astern as nearly as possible and to avoid the 
submarine coming up on the beam, which she tried to do. 
Her fourth shot struck the Fabian on the starboard side 
in the wake of the main rigging, carrying away the three 
shrouds and bulwarks, portions of the shell pitting the 
deck-house. Unfortunately this shell killed the third 
officer. The firing was still continued on both sides, 
but no fmlher shots struck the Fabian. After about 
fifty minutes' running fight, our thirteenth shot appeared 
to strike the submarine, which was then distant about 
two miles. The submarine then submerged ; but five 
minutes later she reappeared on the surface broadside on 
to the Fabian and stationary, and she fired no further 
shots. Another shot (the fourteenth) was fired by the 
Fabian, which appeared to us to strike the submarine, 
and she disappeared, nothing further being seen of lier, 
though a very careful watch was kept to see if she would 
come to the surface again. I feel strongly of opinion that 
either the submarine had been injured by our shots, or 


she was in too disabled a condition to continue the 

The Fabian was then headed for Milford Haven. 

" Throughout the whole of the fight," Captain Price added, 
" the crew behaved very well indeed, each man being at his 
proper station and carrying out all orders promptly. 
I wish to express my appreciation of the services of the 
engineer staff, who all worked well to keep the ship run- 
ning at her utmost speed." 

The month of November provided a curious illustration 
of the varying methods which enemy craft were employing 
at sea, and incidentally the commander of one submarine 
revealed how submarines might be employed without 
inhumanity. On the morning of November 1st the 
Seatonia (3,533 tons) discovered, as she was steaming in 
the North Atlantic swell, that she had become the target 
of an invisible enemy. For nearly three hours she was 
kept under fire, her master (Mr. Arthur Pattison) in the 
meantime zigzagging in the hope of lessening the chance 
of the Seatonia being hit. Immediately the crew were 
afloat in the ship's boats, the one in charge of Captain 
Pattison was hailed alongside the submarine and all the 
seventeen occupants were taken on board and sent below. 
In the meantime the chief officer (Mr. Henry Davies) 
in the other boat shaped a course E. by N., and was picked 
up by a neutral steamer. 

In these circumstances the captain and his sixteen 
companions found themselves shipmates with the enemy 
as the submarine, having sunk the Seatonia, left the 
scene of her triumph. Within the limited space which 
the U-boat provided, sixty-three men were huddled 
together, yet room remained for the Germans to go about 
their business. The prisoners made the best of their 
misfortune during the night, and on the following morning 
Captain Pattison was ordered on deck. Three steam 
trawlers under the British colours were labouring in a 
heavy sea not far away, and he was directed to visit and 
search these vessels, and himself sink the' two which 
had least coal in their bunkers. What was he to do but 
obey ? While he was afloat in one of the trawler's boats, 
the submarine made short work of the Kyoto with a 
single shell. At this moment another trawler, fl>ing 


the Danish ensign, came on the scene. This vessel, the 
Brigi, had, it appeared, already been captured by the 
enemy and was under the command of a German officer, 
who had under him an armed guard. The Brigi had 
been selected to act as the submarine's consort, so all 
belonging to the Seatonia, as well as to the three trawlers, 
were set to work to remove the coal from the Casswell 
and Harfat Castle. For six hours the British seamen, in 
a heavy sea, passed to and fro with their burdens, the 
Germans in the meantime complacently looking on. At 
last the task was completed and the weary men were 
ordered to go on board the Brigi, but the master was still 
kept a prisoner on board the submarine — an undesired 

Within a short time the surviving trawlers, having been 
gutted of coal and stores, were sunk and the Brigi, with 
their boats on board, disappeared. One can imagine 
the feelings of the master of the Seatonia as he realised 
that he was about to become the enforced observer of 
German methods of commerce-destruction by sea. If 
the submarine were destroyed, he would lose his life, but 
if she carried on her work without mishap he might hope 
to escape, with his life at least. For nine days he 
remained in captivity, during which the American s.s, 
Columbian was sunk, as well as the Norwegian steamer 
Balto. And then at last, with all the other seamen of the 
Seatonia, he was sent on board the Swedish steamer 
Varing, which had been placed in charge of a prize crew. 
On November 10th the Varing put into a neutral port 
and her passengers were landed. The master of the 
Seatonia and his companions were treated with no harsh- 
ness, as were so many others, at the hands of the enemy, 
but received a large measure of consideration. In the 
meantime the Brigi, having fulfilled her mission, was 
dismissed, and the exciting experiences at the hands of 
this particular craft, in which so many British and neutral 
seamen had had to take a part, came to an end. 

On the day following the sinking of the Seatonia, the 
Statesman (6,153 tons) was sunk without warning by a 
torpedo 200 miles east from Malta, with a loss of six lives, 
and on the 4th, in practically the same position, the 
Clan Leslie (3,937 tons) and the Huntsvale (5,398 tons) 
were also destroyed without warning ; in the former case 


three lives were lost and in the latter seven, including 
the master. Both these ships were defensively armed, 
but in the conditions in which they were attacked their 
guns were valueless. An incident not without psycho- 
logical interest occurred after the Huntsvale had received 
the mortal blow which carried away her stern and caused 
her to sink in a space of two minutes. The sea was 
strewn with wreckage, to which a number of British 
seamen were clinging in desperation, and two boats which 
had been hastily launched were passing to and fro pick- 
ing up survivors. 

The scene would have been a pitiable one to other 
than German eyes, but two of the officers of the enemy 
submarine decided that it offered an opportunity of en- 
heartening their fellow-countrymen. So, standing on the 
deck of their vessel, they took a series of photographs, 
evidently with a view of placing on record the success 
with which submarines were not merely sinking ships, 
but practising the policy of ruthlessness in spite of all 
the declarations of the German authorities that the cam- 
paign was being conducted in accordance with the 
generally recognised rules of cruiser warfare. These damag- 
ing pictures having been secured, the enemy vessel 
disappeared, leaving the survivors of the Huntsvale afloat 
in two boats, far distant from the nearest land. Even 
in these conditions these British seamen were not unmind- 
ful of their obligations to others. The master (Mr. J. 
Edmondson) had, as has been stated, been killed, but the 
chief officer, who remained in command of the two boats, 
casting his eye over the sea, noticed two steamers coming 
up. So, ignoring the risk that the submarine might 
return and wreak vengeance on him and his companions, 
he burnt warning flares and was thus probably responsible 
for robbing the enemy of two victims. Throughout the 
night the chief officer and his comrades, soaked to the 
skin and suffering from the cold, confronted the prospect 
of death ; but early on the following morning, after nine 
hours' exposure, the hospital ship Valdavia came to their 
rescue. That they did not all perish, leaving no trace 
of the enemy's crime, was due to no consideration on the 
part of the officers of the submarine, who, having secured 
their photographs, cared not one jot what fate overtook 
these forty seamen of the great brotherhood of the sea. 


Though a certain measure of respect to superior orders 
was being paid by submarine officers around the British 
Isles, where there was danger of encountering American 
citizens, in the Mediterranean the sink-at-sight poUcy 
was at this period being apphed, not merely to ordinary 
cargo boats, but even to heavily laden passenger ships. 
On November 6th the P. & O. liner Arabia (7,933 tons) 
was homeward bound from Australia and Colombo to 
London when she was torpedoed without warning, though 
she had on board 743 persons, for she carried, in addition 
to the crew, a complement of no fewer than 439 passengers, 
of whom 169 were women and children. The master 
(Mr. Walter B. Palmer) was not unconscious of the diffi- 
cult task which was allotted him of bringing his ship in 
safety through the Mediterranean, and he took every 
possible precaution. 

On the morning of November 6th this liner was steaming 
on a zigzag course at a speed of about 17 knots ; the 
chief and third mates were on the bridge, a quartermaster 
being at the wheel ; another quartermaster was on the 
lookout on the forecastle head, and a lascar was stationed 
in the crow's-nest ; the defensive armament with which 
the ship had been provided was ready for any emergency. 
It was all in vain. Though the atmosphere was clear and 
the sea smooth, not a trace of a submarine was seen until 
a torpedo had been fired, striking the Arabia on the 
starboard side. At the moment Captain Palmer was in 
his cabin ; he went instantly to the bridge with the in- 
tention of stopping the engines, but he was too late ; the 
explosion had already smashed them, and smoke was 
Issuing from the engine-room skylight. The wireless 
aerials had also been put out of action, so no signal for 
help could be sent out. 

An adequate explanation of the disaster was provided 
as the periscope of a submarine appeared about six 
hundred yards distant. A moment later a second tor- 
pedo was fired, without success. Then the enemy made 
off. Captain Palmer instantly realised the heavy responsi- 
bility thrust upon him. He sounded five short blasts on 
the ship's whistle to announce to passengers and crew 
that the ship must be instantly abandoned. The boats 
had already been swung out and, as soon as sufficient way 
was off the ship, they were lowered safely, and within a 


few minutes everyone on board had left the Arabia, 
with the exception of eleven of the engine-room staff — 
natives — who were presumably killed by the explosion ; 
and then the master himself surrendered his command. 
By a fortunate circumstance, within a few minutes three 
British armed trawlers arrived on the scene, and the 
Ellerman liner City of Marseilles, outward bound, joined 
in the work of rescue, in which later on a French man-of- 
war assisted. Within less than an hour and a half the 
Arabia had disappeared, and Captain Palmer, though he 
had lost his ship, could congratulate himself that, owing to 
the organisation on board which he had instituted and the 
manner in which passengers, officers, and men had behaved 
in face of the disaster, every living soul, except the unfor- 
tunate natives of the engine-room staff, had been brought 
out of danger. Many hours' exposure had to be faced, 
however, before these unhappy people, cold and hungry 
and exhausted, at last were got ashore. 

That enemy submarines were now disregarding more 
and more the assurances which the German authorities 
had given to the United States and other neutral Govern- 
ments became increasingly apparent as the month passed. 
On November 12th the Kayunda (3,383 tons) was torpedoed 
without warning 205 miles east-south-east from Malta, and 
the Brierton (3,255 tons), the City of Birmingham (7,498 
tons), the Reaywell (3,417 tons), the King Malcolm (3,351 
tons), and the Moresby (1,763 tons) were all surprised and 
sunk in the Mediterranean before the month was closed. 
Each of these vessels was defensively armed, as was also 
the F. Matarazzo (2,823 tons), which was also torpedoed 
without warning twenty miles south from Littlehampton. 
That these ships were destroyed without mercy for anyone 
on board was, of course, a matter not of chance but of 
deliberate policy. 

The story of the sinking of the City of Birmingham is 
one of the enheartening incidents of this sad record of 
the submarine war, showing how, in face of danger, 
delicate women can triumph over their fears in an emer- 
gency. Of the 170 passengers on board the ship, no 
fewer than 100 were women and children ; including the 
crew, the City of Birmingham had on board 317 persons, 
of whom 115 were native seamen. She was outward bound 
for Bombay and Karachi. On November 22nd she left 

I. ^ 

! i 


Gibraltar, having received orders as to the course to be 
followed to Port Said. Five days later a terrific explosion 
occurred near the bulkhead between Nos. 5 and 6 holds, 
destroying one of the lifeboats. The master (Mr. Wilfred 
J. Haughton) had taken every precaution against disaster. 
He had prevailed upon every passenger to wear a life- 
belt at all times ; boat lists had been posted about the 
ship ; large numbered indicators had been attached to 
each boat ; and he had introduced a special system of 
boat-station identification tags. At the moment when 
the ship was struck, and water and wreckage were flung 
upwards. Captain Haughton was going round the ship with 
the chief officer, assured that a good lookout for the 
enemy was being maintained ; the third officer, with a 
naval cadet on the lookout, was in charge of the bridge, 
and a lascar was on the forecastle head ; a white quarter- 
master was in the crow's-nest, and a naval cadet and a 
gunner stood ready by the 4-7-inch gun. The ship was 
proceeding on zigzag courses at a speed of about 13| knots ; 
the wTathcr was fine and clear, with a heavy north-westerly 
swell. Those on board were justified in believing that 
everything possible had been done to ensure the safety 
of the ship. No submarine, however, was seen ; only 
the explosion gave notice that the vessel had been marked 
down for destruction. 

It was soon apparent that there was little time to lose, 
for the ship immediately took a heavy list. Captain 
Haughton was equal to the emergency. The engines 
were stopped and then reversed, wireless signals for help 
were sent out, and all on board were ordered to the boats. 
There was no panic. The captain on the bridge remained 
in command of the situation, and his coolness and courage 
were communicated to passengers and crew. Within ten 
minutes of the explosion all the boats had been got away, 
though a mishap occurred to one Of them owing to the 
falls jamming. Captain Haughton alone remained on 
board the doomed vessel as she sank steadily stern first. 
Another ten minutes elapsed, and then the City of Bir- 
mingham took a final plunge, carrying with her this 
typical British seaman who, having assured the safety 
of everyone in his charge, determined to retain his com- 
mand until the seas robbed him of it. As he rose to the 
surface and struck out towards some floating planks, 


the sound of women singing an enheartening hymn reached 
his ears. In spite of all they had gone through, and 
regardless of the danger which still threatened them adrift 
in the Mediterranean in mid-winter, ninety miles from 
Malta, these women still had heart to raise their voices 
in song. Although seven boats heavily laden were 
afloat in the vicinity, half an hour passed before the master 
was seen and could be rescued. Drenched to the skin 
and exhausted though he was, Captain Haughton immedi- 
ately resumed command as soon as he was on board 
one of the boats. Happily the ordeal of all these pas- 
sengers and seamen was to prove of comparatively short 
duration. The City of Birmingham had sunk shortly 
before noon, and soon after 4 o'clock Captain Haughton, 
on board the hospital ship Letitia, mustered his crew and 
called the roll of passengers. Only four failed to answer — 
the doctor, a man well advanced in years ; the barman, 
who had fallen into the water and been drowned ; and 
two lascars. In the report which he afterwards wrote 
the master recorded that " the women especially showed a 
good example by the way in which they took their places 
in the boats, as calmly as if they were going down to their 
meals, and when in the boats they began singing." 

It would be to convey a wrong impression of the course 
of the submarine war at this period were nothing said 
of the thirty-six ships, of 157,633 tons, which, though 
attacked, managed to escape during this month of 
November. Month by month, as the intensity of the 
enemy's attack and the volume of the sinkings of merchant 
shipping mounted up, the number of vessels which, 
though interfered with by submarines, managed to escape 
steadily increased. In September the tonnage which, 
owing to good seamanship or defensive armament, reached 
port after molestation had been 122,933 tons. In October 
the figure was 124,770, and in November reached another 
high-water mark — 157,633 tons. The defensive armament 
of merchant shipping had by this time made considerable 
progress, and of the thirty-six vessels which escaped during 
November two-thirds had been provided with guns. The 
success of British seamen in eluding the enemy was all the 
more remarkable in view of the various stratagems which 
the submarine commanders were adopting. An example 
of this resourcefulness was revealed shortly after midnight 


on October 1st, when the Lindenhall (4,003 tons) was 
steaming to the westward of Sicily. The master (Mr, 
Evan Thomas) saw a vessel three points on the starboard 
bow — apparently a sailing-craft. There was nothing to 
arouse suspicion, as sailing-vessels are often encountered 
in these waters ; but the master watched the stranger 
carefully. Though there was no wind, she was moving 
through the water at a rapid rate. He came to the con- 
clusion that the sailing-craft was in fact a submarine 
disguised^ Shortly afterwards a live shell plunged into 
the water about forty yards off the starboard bow of the 
Lindenhall. In the official record which Captain Thomas 
afterwards made of the incident he stated that — 

" The helm was put hard a -starboard to bring the sub- 
marine astern, and when the steamer was broadside on two 
shells passed over, one of them only just clearing the upper 
bridge. We then returned her fire, which had the effect 
of causing the submarine to raise her speed and increase 
her distance from us. She kept shelling us with two guns 
for one hour fifty-five minutes. No one counted the 
number of shells fired by the submarine, but it could not 
be less than 200, as she was firing two shells for every one 
we fired, and firing more rapidly. The steamer fired 
eighty-six shells and had only fourteen left. When we 
were about seven miles off the island and proceeding 
direct for it, the submarine submerged and we saw no 
more of her. Some deck damage was caused, the port 
lifeboat was holed and the bridge damaged by pieces of 
shells. The officers, engineers, stewards, carpenter, cook, 
and gunners deserve credit, as they fought and steamed 
her without any assistance from the sailors and firemen, 
they having refused to do anything." 

Another not infrequent device of the enemy was to hunt 
in couples in the expectation that, while the defensively 
armed ship was engaged with one submarine, the other 
might succeed in getting in sufficiently close to fire a 
torpedo with the assurance that the target would be 
hit. Even this manoeuvre did not always succeed, as the 
master (Mr. P. Urquhert) proved when the Clan Chisholm 
was attacked off Finisterre on November 13th. Shortly 
after 1 o'clock a topsail schooner was sighted one point 


on the starboard bow ; a submarine was alongside her, 
and another submarine was steering eastward across 
the bows of the Clan Chisholm. It must have seemed as 
though this ship was doomed. What happened ? We 
have the modest story of this plucky master, and it well 
deserves to be placed on permanent record. 

" We were zigzagging at the time. The nearer submarine 
was evidently getting into position for the next southerly 
course of the Clan Chisholm. I swung the steamer under 
port helm, whistled to the gunner, and pointed to the 
submarine, ringing the engine telegraph to an agreed 
signal, every man rushing to stations. The ship seemed 
to jump as the engineers opened her out, black smoke 
pouring from the funnel. The submarines evidently did 
not realise we were on the turn, so we gained a little on 
them ; however, soon they were round and after us ; 
then they opened fire, and we answered them with our 
4-7 gun (at the same time hoisting ensign on triatic stay 
and kept flying throughout action) — a steady and well- 
directed fire. They were opening out to get one on each 
quarter, so I kept one astern, and the gunner attended 
to the one on the port quarter, the fourth shot at 6,100 
yards sending her under ; and she must have blown up, as 
there was a great volume of water. The one astern turned 
and went in the direction of the sunk submarine, I suppose 
to pick up any men. We gave her two parting shots, but 

" The chase and action only lasted about twenty minutes. 
We fired six shots to their three, and their nearest shot 
was about 200 yards short, a column of black smoke 
rising from where the shots entered the water. I wish 
to draw your attention to the splendid response Mr. 
Russel and his engineers gave to my appeal for speed 
and more speed — a case of burst the engines or be sunk. 
Also to the two gunners, who were cool and collected, and 
their gun crew, steward and carpenter, who served them 
well. These gunners were of the greatest assistance to the 
chief officer during the night of heavy gale, November 
8th and 9th, extricating the horses from underneath broken 
boxes and leading them over wire lashings and flooded 
decks to alleyways. The chief and third officers got 
boats ready and crew under shelter, and then assisted the 


second officer and myself on the bridge. The above is a 
true statement of all that happened." 

But even unarmed ships were effecting their escape. 
The officers and crew of the Palm Branch (3,891 tons) 
gave an exhibition of courage and dauntlessness on 
November 21st, the only spectators being the out- 
manoeuvred crew of the submarine. The Palm Branch 
was in the English Channel at the time, not far from the 
French coast, when a submarine arose from the water and 
opened fire at close range. The master of this unarmed 
ship determined to see whether his ship, dexterously 
handled, could be saved. It was a tremendous risk, 
but he took it. He put his helm over to get the 
submarine astern of him, and the chief engineer rushed 
down to the stokehold to encourage the firemen to 
do their best. Everyone, from the captain downwards, 
realised that it was a fight for life against heavy odds, but 
they were not afraid, though shells began to fall round 
them and some of them hit the ship. The port lifeboat 
was soon shot away, and the starboard lifeboat holed ; 
the bridge was struck and a seaman wounded. The 
quarters of the crew aft were wrecked ; and a splinter hit 
the apprentice on the head, but, though blood was stream- 
ing down his face, he remained at the wheel. At last 
fire broke out in the forecastle. Throughout the ordeal 
the captain, enheartened by the spirit exhibited by every- 
one on board, continued to swing his ship first to port and 
then to starboard so as to prevent the enemy getting 
broadside on. For half an hour this unarmed ship out- 
manoeuvred the submarine with her high speed, her guns, 
and her torpedoes. At last the enemy abandoned the 
contest, and the Palm Branch, after effecting repairs at 
a French port, reached the United States to supply the 
Americans with conclusive evidence that British seamen, 
though defenceless, were continuing to go about their 

In the last month of the year enemy submarines, mines, 
and raiders took heavy toll of British shipping ; fifty-six 
vessels were sunk with a loss of 186 lives, and of these 
thirty-six ships fell to submarines, the death-roll being 
ninety-one. The policy of sinking ships without warning 
was still being pursued, and proved effective in fourteen 


instances. We have in the story of the Istrar (4,582 tons) 
an example of the manner in which the naval authorities 
were continuing to co-operate to ensure the safety of the 
Merchant Fleet, for the Istrar was defensively armed and 
the master (Mr. Maxwell M. Jacob) was supplied with all 
the information which the Admiralty had at its disposal as 
to the safest course. Captain Jacobs' narrative constitutes 
a picture of sea conditions at this time which could not well 
be improved upon. 

" I had been eleven and a half years in command of the 
Istrar when she was sunk. We sailed from Liverpool on 
November 2nd, 1916, with a crew of seventy-two, of 
whom fifty-nine were lascars. We ran into very heavy 
weather shortly after clearing the English coast, and had 
to put back to Plymouth to repair. We arrived there on 
November 6th and left again on the 18th for Calcutta. 
I had obtained instructions as to my route as far as Gibral- 
tar at Liverpool, and at Falmouth I obtained fresh instruc- 
tions which were sent to me from the Admiralty Office at 
Plymouth. These instructions were carried out and the 
vessel arrived safely at Gibraltar on November 24th. 
I then obtained from the Routing Officer on the Examina- 
tion Vessel at Gibraltar the route instructions for Port 

" All went well until December 2nd. On that day, at 
1.15 p.m., when we were in a position lat. 33° 5' N., 
long. 28° 40' E., the third officer being on watch and the 
usual men at stations, I heard the explosion, the vessel 
sustaining a very heavy shock. I went on the bridge at 
once and stopped the engines. The third officer told me 
that he had seen the wake of a torpedo about 300 yards 
away, coming towards the vessel on the starboard side and 
heading towards midships. He at once ordered the helm 
hard a-port and, as the vessel answered quickly, the torpedo 
struck her on the starboard quarter. The vessel at once 
took a list to port and the crew came up. The crews' 
quarters were aft, and it was found that one native had 
been killed and five injured by the flying debris after the 
explosion. The vessel carried a 4-7-inch gun which was 
displaced by the explosion. It was fine and clear at the 
time. We were proceeding at 10 1 knots on No. 2 zigzag 
and were on the appointed course of S. 40 E. There was 


not much trouble with the crew, and the boats were lowered 
safely with the exception of my boat, which remained 

*' The first step which I took was to collect all the 
secret instructions and code-book, and these I threw over- 
side. The loose papers I collected together and put on 
the galley fire, and then, after searching the vessel to 
see that all were clear, I got into my boat. The vessel 
was settling very slowly, no doubt owing to the fact 
that the hatches and ventilators were sealed and the escape 
of air was slow. Before the vessel was abandoned, an 
S.O.S, signal was sent off giving our position, but we did 
not receive any reply before we left. I ascertained after- 
wards that the message had been received. Not long 
after we were clear, the submarine came to the surface on 
the port quarter and, coming close, put ten shots into the 
port side. The vessel then commenced to sink very rapidly. 

" My boat was on the starboard side and the chief 
officer's boat on the port side. The submarine first spoke 
to the chief officer's boat and asked for me. I ordered sail 
to be made in my boat and tried to get clear, but the sub- 
marine caught us up and ordered us alongside. We were 
first asked for our papers, and the submarine's commander 
was told that anything that had not been destroyed was 
on the vessel. The submarine did not attempt to take me 
prisoner, but asked for the chief engineer, who was in my 
boat, and on his answering he ordered him on board the 
submarine, saying that they were taking the chief as they 
heard that England was getting short of engineers, and 
added that it did not much matter, because England would 
not have any ships left soon, as they were sinking three 
every day. The commander then said : ' You won't be 
long in the boats ; there are plenty of patrol-vessels about.' 
He then wished us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New 
Year. I thanked him, and then shoved off. There were 
two other captains on board the submarine, the captain 
of the Reapwell and the captain of the King Malcolm. 
They were allowed, when the chief officer's boat was along- 
side the submarine, to speak to the chief officer and to 
give him telegrams to be sent home. We were told that 
there were two other captains down below. When my 
chief engineer was sent below, the commander made me 
promise to send word to his people that he was safe. The 


submarine had no flag flying and no mark or number 
showing. We counted thirteen people on her decks, of 
whom two were officers. The submarine went away to 
the northward. The Istrar had been settling all the time 
with an increasing list to port, but very little by the stern, 
and at 2.25 we saw her capsize, the tops of the masts being 
the last thing visible. I gave the boats their course and 
we made sail, being picked up at 5 o'clock by the sloop 
Asphodel, which was on patrol duty. The sloop com- 
municated by wireless with Alexandria and was told to 
bring us in, and we were then put on board H.M.S. 

How were the crews of the submarines faring at this 
period of the war ? It would be an error to assume that, 
because they were meeting with a certain measure of suc- 
cess, they were not suffering great hardships. We have 
fortunately the narratives of two British captains who were 
taken prisoners after their ships had been sunk in December 
which supply evidence of the harassing life which enemy 
seamen were supporting. As the defensive measures 
consorted for the protection of British merchant shipping 
improved, the strain on the enemy crews increased in 
intensity until at length it became no easy matter to obtain 
crews, and at last the spirit of the men engaged in this 
hazardous service broke, as we shall see later on. It is 
indeed a reasonable hypothesis that, even if the Armistice 
had not come in November 1918, the intensive submarine 
campaign would have had to be abandoned owing to the 
difficulty of securing trained and willing crews to face 
the risk of death in conditions of horror to which warfare 
in earlier centuries had provided no parallel. But this is 
to anticipate the course of events, and we are concerned 
at this moment with the experiences of the submarine 
crews in December 1916, when the struggle still had twenty- 
three months to go. On December 4th U65 torpedoed 
without warning the Caledonia (9,223 tons) when she 
was 125 miles E. by S. from Malta. The defensive 
armament with which this Anchor liner had been provided 
proved useless. Out of the nowhere a torpedo struck her 
a glancing blow on the starboard side of No. 3 hold, and 
she sank in three-quarters of an hour. The master (Mr, 
James Blaikie) tried to ram the submarine, and struck her, 


but the impact was insufficient to sink her. After the 
crew were in the boat, the submarine appeared and took 
off the master as well as two Army officers who were on 

Some time later Captain Blaikie was able to give some 
account of his experiences on board this submarine — a. 
large vessel, fitted with four torpedo tubes and carrying 
eight torpedoes, besides mounting a gun on the fore -deck. 
Though the submarine was not destroyed when the Cale- 
donia ran over her, she was flattened out on the port side 
forward for about 130 feet to a depth of 1| feet ; the 
stem had been bent to starboard, the periscope doubled 
up, and the wireless gear on the port side carried away. 
These injuries resulted in leakage around some of the 
plates, and after the submarine had gained the surface she 
was unable to submerge. Temporary repairs were at 
once undertaken, and on th» following day an experimental 
dive was tried, but the boat threatened to get out of hand, 
and the commander decided that his only course was to 
make his way back to Cattaro on the surface. About 
three hours before reaching port two Austrian torpedo- 
boat destroyers came out to act as escort. Though the 
Caledonia had only succeeded in crippling U65, the damage 
to the submarine was sufficiently serious to entail repairs 
which were not completed until the following April. 

Another master who had his ship sunk under him, and 
who was also taken prisoner, subsequently put on record 
his experiences. The Apsleyhall (3,382 tons) was twenty- 
eight miles W. by N. from Gozo when she was struck. 
The ship was going at full speed when a torpedo hit 
her on the port side. Her case was hopeless. After 
Captain Higginbottom had stopped the engines and ordered 
the boats out, another torpedo struck the ship on the port 
side, and in ten minutes the Apsleyhall had disappeared, 
but fortunately no lives were lost. As the vessel was 
going down, submarine UC22 appeared on the surface and 
ordered Captain Higginbottom on board. He was directed 
to go below, where he found Captain T. R. Borthwick, of 
the Glasgow steamer Oronsay (3,761 tons), which had been 
sunk two days before off Malta. Captain Higginbottom 
learnt that he was on board a submarine engaged in 
laying mines round Malta, and that she carried twenty-one 
mine-tubes. Each cruise occupied from fifteen to twenty 

n— 25 


days. She was also armed with a gun on the fore-deck, 
capable of firing effectively at a six-mile range. She carried 
five torpedoes, but these were not used until after the mines 
had been sown, since it was feared that the concussion 
might fire the mines and thus destroy the submarine. 
Captain Higginbottom has supplied a picture of the routine 
followed by this mine-laying submarine. 

" Learnt that commanders and crews of all submarines 
dread the system of nets and trawlers across the Gulf of 
Otranto, and preferred to have dirty dark nights in that 
part and to navigate on the surface to submerging so as 
to pass under the net. When no object was in sight I was 
allowed on deck twice a day for a fcAV minutes for air, and 
I noticed that the submarine was zigzagging. She carried 
two collapsible boats in a casing on the fore-deck, and 
was fitted with wireless to enable her to remain in touch 
with Berlin and Cattaro during each cruise." 

A few days later the Baycraig (7,316 tons) was also 
torpedoed without warning off Malta, and her master 
(Mr. Bertram Edmonds) joined the other two captains con- 
fined in the submarine. The temper of the submarine 
officers at this stage of the war was illustrated by the 
conduct of the commander of the UC22 when Captain 
Edmonds got on board. The commander met him at 
the conning-tower and, waving a small revolver, which had 
been thrown overboard in the British master's overcoat, 
in his face, remarked menacingly, " You remember Captain 
Fryatt ? ' ' Under all the trials which the submarine 
crews were supporting, they were, however, encouraged 
by the belief that their eventual success was certain. 
Whether this attitude was assumed by the officers in order 
to encourage the men under them or was genuine must 
remain a matter of speculation, but at any rate, when the 
old year died the Kaiser's health was toasted and it was 
declared that within a few months victory was assured. 
The men of the submarine ser\4ce, hard pressed already 
by the various defensive measures adopted by the 
Admiralty, and opposed by the invincible spirit of British 
seamen, did not realise that the worst of their trials still 
lay ahead. 

How invincible was the spirit which British merchant 


seamen, on the other hand, were exhibiting, though con- 
fronted with terrors of which they had been able to form 
no conception when in pre-war days conversation had 
turned to the dangers of war, was shown by the experiences 
of the officers and men of the Conch (5,620 tons). This 
vessel was an oil-tanker belonging to the Anglo-Saxon 
Petroleum Company. She was off Anvil Point when she 
was struck by a torpedo on the night of December 7th. 
The Conch was carrying 7,000 tons of benzine and the 
explosion caused this oil to ignite, and within a few minutes 
the water was lighted up by leaping flames which spouted 
from her port side. The master (Mr. Edwin Slott) did not 
survive to tell the tale ; of the twelve British officers only 
three, indeed, in addition to twenty-five Chinamen out of 
the forty-four which were on board, escaped with their 
lives. Contrary to the normal experience under such 
conditions, it was the three engineer officers who were 
spared the worst contagion of fire. 

As the Conch was making her way down-Channel in the 
brilliant moonlight, the routine precautions were adopted. 
At 8 o'clock the watch had been changed, the master and 
the third officer going on the bridge ; two quartermasters 
were at the wheel ; a lookout man was stationed on the 
forecastle head, and a gunner with the wireless operator 
stood by the gun, mounted aft, ready for an emergency. 
A zigzag course was, of course, steered, but these measures 
were in vain. At half-past ten the chief engineer (Mr. 
H. L. Raffray), when in his cabin, felt the ship shake from 
stem to stern ; she listed a little to port and then righted 
herself. He at once went to the engine-room, where the 
fourth engineer was on watch. There were no signs there 
that an}i:hing untoward had happened ; the telegraph 
dial still spoke full speed, and the ship was in fact travelling 
at the rate of 10 knots. What had happened ? The 
fourth engineer, as he ran to call his two companions, 
speedily discovered that the ship was on fire. As he 
passed along the alleyway he was met by flames and 
smoke. He persevered in spite of burns on his arms and 
hands, and was soon back in the engine-room with the 
two other engineers. It soon became apparent that the 
afterpart of the ship had become a furnace. " The ex- 
plosion," Mr. Raffray afterwards suggested, " must have 
either blown up the deck or blown the tank tops off and 


sent a column of burning oil over the bridge and poop, 
killing everyone on duty on the bridge." But the officers 
and their staff in the engine-room were in ignorance of 
what had happened. They tried to get instructions from 
the bridge, but could get no reply. So they kept the 
engines working, as it was assumed if, as seemed evident, 
the oil was alight, it was better to keep the ship moving 
so as to prevent the flaming oil collecting round her, 
rather than to stop her. 

Attempts were made to reach the deck, but they were 
unavailing. An hour passed in vain efforts to ascertain 
what was happening, and during that period the ship, 
licked by the flames, continued to steam at 10 knots. At 
length, half an hour after the clocks had struck midnight 
ashore, the second engineer managed to reach the deck. 
His companions shortly afterwards joined him, to discover 
to their horror that they were imprisoned in a burning 
charnel-house ; the four lifeboats had disappeared, nothing 
remaining but the davits ; the bridge was in ruins, and 
fore and aft flames were leaping upward, devouring every- 
thing they touched. 

The Conch had become a great funeral pile, as she still 
steamed up-Channel in the moonlight, with her pennants 
of smoke and flame. It was impossible to regain the 
engine-room in order to stop the engines, for the fire barred 
the way, and the only hope of safety lay in the dinghy, 
which still remained on the well deck. What were the 
thoughts which flashed through the minds of those on 
board, British officers and Chinamen, as they confronted 
their fate ? Time was pressing if anyone was to survive. 
Four terrified Chinamen slid down the falls and reached 
the dinghy, which had been hoisted out, only to fill im- 
mediately with water. They had been followed by the 
fourth engineer, but he, badly wounded in the hand as he 
was, dropped into the sea like a stone and was not again 
seen. A few minutes later the chief engineer succeeded in 
joining the four Chinamen, and then the dinghy broke 
adrift before the two other engineer officers could follow ; 
and the ship still steamed ahead, a mass of flames, at a 
steady 10 knots. Though the unfortunate seamen, as 
their boat lost distance, did not realise it, a patrol-vessel 
on duty inshore had noticed the flames and had been 
chasing the Conch at full speed. The chief engineer and 


his companions had all they could do to keep the dinghy 
afloat by baling. They were still fighting for their lives 
when the steamer Rattray Head bore down upon them and 
rescued them from what seemed certain death. 

The chief engineer had soon told his tragic story on board 
the Rattray Head, and the steamer set off in pursuit of the 
burning ship in the hope that further lives might be saved. 
But by good fortune a trawler had already rushed to the 
rescue, and the two engineers, jumping overboard from the 
Conch, found safety. 

Through the early hours of the morning the Conch, still 
pursuing her course up-Channel, attracted the attention of 
Lieutenant Grough Scott of the destroyer Nymphe. At 
great risk to his vessel, he approached the doomed ship, 
by this time a mass of contagious flame. It would have 
meant disaster to himself and his crew to try to go alongside 
the Conch, which had been converted into a furnace. So 
he threw overboard life-saving rafts, lifebelts, and lifebuoys 
as he steamed past the stern, and then called to the crowd 
of terrified Chinamen who stood amid the flames on the 
forepeak to jump into the water. He repeated this 
manoeuvre three times, and at last had the satisfaction of 
picking up all except nine of the Cliinamen, who still 
remained paralysed upon the ship. They would not or 
could not save themselves, but the naval officer would not 
abandon them. They were only Chinamen, men of a 
foreign nation, but he determined to face the risk of going 
alongside the burning ship, though she was out of control 
and a danger to any vessel which approached her. It was 
a task that demanded seamanship of the highest order, but 
it was carried out with little injury to the destroyer, and 
the nine Chinamen were roused to action by the courage 
and daring exhibited on their behalf, and summoned suffi- 
cient energy to drop down one by one on to the deck of 
the destroyer. By the time these last rescues had been 
made, the steamer which had picked up the chief engineer 
and his companions, and two patrol-boats, had rescued 
other men from the water. And thus it happened that 
out of a complement of fifty-six seamen, white and yellow, 
no fewer than half were almost miraculously saved from 
death in circumstances of terror calculated to rob any 
men, however brave, of their power of intelligent action. 
The career of the Conch, without officers and men on board 


to control her erratic course, came to an end next morning 
when she foundered. 

With the close of 1916, the Germans, rendered desperate 
by the failure of their methods of terror by land and by sea, 
were preparing to throw off the pretence that the submarine 
campaign was being conducted in accordance with the rules 
governing cruiser warfare. They realised that British 
merchant seamen were still fighting against heavy odds 
owing to the inadequacy of the armament which the 
authorities could spare for their defence, and urged on the 
German Government that a swift blow should be struck. 
The crisis of the naval war was at hand. 

During January, in spite of all the exhibitions of ruthless- 
ness, a far larger volume of tonnage, though molested, had 
managed to elude destruction than the enemy succeeded 
in sinking — 140,722 tons molested as compared with 109,954 
tons sunk. But the death-roll of the month was heavy : 
245 British seamen were forced to surrender their lives in 
defence of their King and Country. 

At this period the German naval personnel was evidently 
satisfied that the submarine campaign could, and would, be 
pressed home and that victory would be achieved. The de- 
fensive armament, though quite inadequate, was evidently 
proving a great embarrassment ; of the twenty-nine 
ships which escaped, all but eight were defensively armed. 
The practice of takingprisoner the masters of the defensively 
armed ships which were destroyed was being generally 
adopted. Under these trying conditions these merchant 
captains bore themselves with dignity and courage. For 
instance, when the master (Mr. James A. Taylor) of the 
Mohacsfield (3,678 tons) reached the submarine U35, which 
had destroyed his ship, he was told that he was a prisoner 
of war. He noticed a small Austrian flag had been placed 
near him. He regarded that as a misrepresentation, and 
turning round, he pulled it out of its position, exclaiming, 
" This is an Austrian flag ! You are not Austrians, you are 
Germans." The commanding officer protested that, 
though he was a German, the crew were Austrian. This 
modified statement, however, was also untrue, as Captain 
Taylor discovered soon afterwards. This ended the con- 
versation for the moment. 

" Getting below at the after end of the submarine, close 


to the after torpedo-tube," Captain Taylor afterwards 
recorded, " I found Captain Fry, of the Lesbian, a prisoner 
of war.^ He was wounded, and lying on a small locker and 
some biscuit tins. I had to sit down alongside of him as 
there was no accommodation in these quarters. All the 
cooking of the ship was done here. I was given a blanket 
and had to make the best of the small space allowed to us. 
That evening the commanding officer called me a pirate 
and asked me why I fired. In reply I said I was no 
pirate, but that he was the pirate, and he had fired at me 
first. ' If a man strikes you, would you not strike him back? ' 
adding that unfortunately he, the German, had had the 
upper hand owing to the possession of a larger gun. He 
declared that he would shoot me. I replied, ' Remember, 
I have got the British nation behind me.' " 

Captain Taylor's bearing evidently impressed the German, 
and he even permitted him to write a few lines to his home 
and promised that he would see that the letter was duly 
dispatched. On the following day the Andoni (3,188 tons) 
(master, Mr. W. S, Dennis) was dispatched, being 
torpedoed without warning, and the Lynfield (3,023 tons) 
shared the same fate. The submarine then turned towards 
Cattaro. She arrived off the Gulf on the morning of 
January 13th with her four prisoners, and was received in 
triumph as she made her way into the port. The ships 
were manned and a band played. " The four prisoners 
were placed on her after-deck, with their eight days' dirt 
upon them, for we had not been allowed to wash." They 
had had little food, and none of the ordinary conveniences 
of life ; they were forthwith dispatched to a prisoners' camp 
to endure even worse torments than they had experienced 
at sea. 

The manner in which some of the enemy's submarines 
were being operated at this stage in the campaign was 
illustrated by the experiences which fell to the master 
(Mr. T. H. Stretting) of the Jevington (2,747 tons) and his 
crew. This ship was crossing the Bay of Biscay on the 
afternoon of January 23rd, when the chief officer, who 
was resting in his cabin, was thrown out of his bed 
by a violent explosion. About two hours earlier in the 

'■ The Lesbian (2,555 tons) had been captured and destroyed two days 
previously, 125 miles E. by S. from Malta. 


afternoon Captain Stretting had noticed a little steamer 
about five miles distant. The Bay was in an angry mood, 
the weather was misty, and a few minutes later the strange 
craft disappeared in the driving rain which was falling. 
Not long afterwards Captain Stretting saw what appeared 
to be a fishing-vessel, with two lug sails, steering north- 
wards. It occurred to him that she might have been 
communicating with the strange steamer. She altered 
course as though to cross the bows of the Jevington. Then 
she disappeared in a rainstorm. Whether the appearance 
of this strange steamer in some sort of association with a 
vessel looking like a fishing-craft had any special significance 
in the Bay of Biscay, it was difficult to determine. 

Nothing occurred for an hour and a half to clear up 
the mystery, and then a submarine rose to the surface 
200 yards on the port bow and fired on the Jevington. 
The shot hit the ship on the port side. There was nothing 
for it but to reverse the engines, so as to get way off the 
ship, and to order all hands into the boats. It was one 
thing to decide on the abandonment of the ship, and 
quite another, in the heavy seas which were running, to 
get the boats away in safety. But at last everyone had 
left and the ship rode on the heaving waters, a deserted 
derelict, already sinking by the head. The forward deck 
was nearly awash, and the propeller was well out of the 
water. The two boats were pulled away from the 
Jevington, but on catching sight of the submarine a mile 
away, the chief officer (Mr. J. C. Ross) pulled towards her. 
Struck by the miserable clothes in which some of the crew 
were dressed, the enemy passed over to the other boat 
a quantity of clothes. Captain Stretting was afterwards 
taken on board and cross-examined and then sent back 
again, being informed that later on he would be made a 
prisoner. The submarine, with two sails up, which caused 
her to resemble a fishing-boat, then disappeared. 

At this moment the shipwrecked British seamen saw 
with delight a steamer not far away, so they pulled towards 
her. She proved to be the Donstad, a Norwegian vesseL 
Everyone clambered on board, only to discover that the 
vessel was in charge of an armed party of Germans. She 
had been captured earlier in the day and was being em- 
ployed as a decoy. The British seamen recognised her as 
the vessel which had been lost in the mist soon after the 


dinner-hour, while the submarine was evidently the fishing- 
vessel which had tried to cross the bows of the Jevington. 
Shortly afterwards the chief officer and his companions 
were joined on board the Donstad by the master and the 
men who were with him in his boat. By this time the 
submarine reappeared, accompanied by a Spanish vessel, 
the Leonora, which she had intercepted by way of an inter- 
lude in the ritual which was to attend the destruction of 
the Jevington. 

Night had fallen by this time. On the heaving waters 
of the Bay of Biscay the doomed vessel rolled and pitched 
as though every moment would be her last — a black 
blot on the seascape. Within sight of her lay the sub- 
marine with sidelights burning, keeping guard over the 
two neutral steamers which, with lights ablaze, she had 
pressed into her service. The German commander then 
ordered the master to proceed on board the submarine. 
He informed him that he had captured the Spanish steam- 
ship in order that she might convey the other officers of the 
Jevington, as well as the crew, to Liverpool, but that in 
accordance with his latest instructions Captain Stretting 
himself would be kept on board the submarine and would 
eventually be sent to a prison camp in Germany. In 
due course the chief officer and his companions were 
transferred from the Donstad to the Leonora, which then 
disappeared into the blackness of night. For some 
unexplained reason the master had been told to return 
to the Donstad. While climbing up that ship's side an 
escape of steam from a leaking pipe scalded his leg. This 
looked like a misfortune, but it proved a stroke of good 

From the deck of the Donstad, Captain Stretting was 
able during the next few days to study the tactics of the 
enemy. The steamer cruised about the Bay on the look- 
out for ships, while the submarine made herself as incon- 
spicuous as possible until her prey was assured. The 
Donstad each evening had all her lights burning with the 
evident intention of attracting as much notice as possible. 
Early on the 27th Captain Stretting was told that he and 
everyone else in the Norwegian ship were to cross over to 
the submarine, and as soon as the last boat had left, bombs 
which had been placed on board by the prize crew were 
exploded and the Donstad sank. 


On reaching the submarine Captain Stretting informed 
the commanding officer of the injury to his leg, and added 
that he was in a good deal of pain. Might he lie down ? 
Let it be stated to the credit of this German that his 
sympathy led him to give instructions that the wound 
should be dressed and that this British merchant officer 
should be given the berth of one of his own officers. Lying 
in this bunk, the British shipmaster watched with fascina- 
tion the submarine tracking down a strange vessel by the 
aid of the periscope. The stranger proved to be the 
Fulton, of Bergen. It was forthwith placed in charge 
of a prize crew. She had been commandeered by this 
considerate German in order that she might convey his 
unwilling guests to a neighbouring Spanish port. The 
sufferings of the master had appealed to the heart of this 
naval officer. In any case, so many visitors on board the 
submarine were proving an inconvenience. It may be that 
this officer's motives were of a mixed character, but at any 
rate that evening Captain Stretting and the crew of the 
Donstad were, to their great joy, landed at Cape Finisterre. 

In the last week before the enemy flung political caution 
to the wind and determined on a ruthless and relentless 
attack on merchant shipping, without any pretence of 
respect for the rules governing cruiser warfare, 167 mer- 
chant seamen were brought to their deaths. In two cases 
— those of the Ava (5,076 tons) and the Lux (2,621 tons) — 
the exact cause of sinking must always remain a matter of 
surmise, for no officer or man survived to shed any light 
on the fate of either ship. They were both well found and 
they both disappeared. It is to re-create something of the 
atmosphere of the war to quote the terms of the ominous 
notice with which members of Lloyd's were to become only 
too familiar, which was exhibited in " the Room " on 
May 16th : 

" Ava of Glasgow, official No. 124135, Forson master, 
sailed from Liverpool for Dakar and Rangoon on the 26th 
January 1917, with a cargo of coal and general, and has 
not since been heard of. 

" (Signed) E. F. Inglefield, 

" Secretary."" 

That is the whole story, to which no addition was 


3 70] 


subsequently made. With ninety-two officers and men, 
the Ava sailed from Birkenhead in charge of an experienced 
pilot, who left her inside the Bar Lightship, well satisfied 
in his own mind she was a trustworthy ship, well equipped 
and efficiently loaded. No word of her was afterwards 
received, and at last the presumption was accepted that 
she had been torpedoed without warning. The story of 
the Lux (master, Mr. F. H. Robinson) is much the same. She 
left New York on January 20th, and then the great silence 
fell upon her, broken only by the discovery early in the 
following month of two bodies off the Irish coast in the 
neighbourhood of Cork. One was that of the chief engineer, 
Vivian Oldry Lawson, and the other that of the chief 
officer, James Parry Thomas. 

In the case of the Artist (3,570 tons) little short of a 
miracle accounted for the survival of nine of her comple- 
ment of thirty- five men. January 27th was a dirty day 
in the North Atlantic, and as the Artist (master, Mr, G. 
Mills) drew in towards the Fastnet, she encountered the 
full force of an easterly gale which swept her from stem to 
stern. She had battled her way across the Atlantic, having 
been hove to for three nights and two days, and it may 
well have seemed to Captain Mills and his little company 
that in M^eather which had so severely tested the seaworthi- 
ness of their big ship no smaller enemy craft could live. 
But about 8 o'clock in the morning the confused noise 
of wind and sea was drowned by the sound of an explosion. 
A torpedo had torn a great hole in the vessel on the star- 
board side. It was soon apparent that, in such a sea, the 
damaged ship could live only a few minutes. It was a 
desperate situation for all on board, for as they turned to 
the task of launching the boats water poured over the 
decks as the Artist began to settle down by the head. 
But these men were not to be easily daunted, and all three 
boats were in a few minutes safely in the water and the 
stricken vessel was deserted. 

The master, with the second and third officers and a 
portion of the crew, was in one boat, the chief engineer 
was in charge of another, and a cadet was put in control 
of a third : and it was the last of these boats which survived 
the ordeal. The chief officer with his companions dis- 
appeared almost at once in the raging tumult of the 
waters. But Captain INIills and the cadet managed to 


get clear of the doomed ship, and throughout that day, 
with sea anchors laid out, they drifted. Throughout the 
night the gale increased in violence, the thermometer 
dropping to 37°. Those who have never spent a 
night in mid- winter in an open boat cannot by any stretch 
of imagination picture the horrors which these men en- 
dured as they devoted themselves to the task of baling 
out the water which broke over the gunwales. Wet to 
the skin and cold to the marrow, they must have realised 
how wellnigh hopeless was the prospect that they would 
survive. By the following morning nothing was to be 
seen of the captain's boat ; it had disappeared, and 
nothing was ever heard of it or its occupants. The cadet 
and his little group of companions alone survived. 

They were the sole remnant of the forty-five men who 
had put out on the voyage. They knew that the wireless 
operator had sent out a call for help when the Artist 
had been struck, but what prospect was there that help 
could reach them in such weather ? Moreover, though the 
Artist had been sunk fifty-eight miles W. ^ S. from the 
Smalls, the position of their little boat as she had drifted 
hour by hour was unknown to anyone. Throughout the 
Sunday, all the following day, and until long after dawn 
on the Tuesday, the boat was at the mercy of wind, tide, 
and wave. Men died and their bodies were committed to 
the deep ; others sustained various injuries, and all suffered 
the agonies of cold, wet, and physicaland mental exhaustion. 
Were there not overwhelming official evidence, as well as 
the narratives of the survivors, it would be almost past 
belief that any men could have existed throughout those 
three days and three nights. But, at last, the wind 
dropped and the sea began to subside. With unspeakable 
relief their tired, overstrained eyes picked up in the far 
distance lights which spoke of land being nigh. A short 
time afterwards a steamer outward bound bore down upon 
them, but there remained of the original crew of sixteen 
persons only ten in the boat, and one of these was rigid 
in death. In calmer seas it proved a simple matter to 
transfer the survivors to the patrol-boat, and thus in due 
course they were conveyed ashore to receive at the hands 
of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society the succour of which 
they stood in such dire need. 

A brief account of the sinking of the Artist was issued 


shortly afterwards by the Admiralty, and in this statement 
it was remarked that " the pledge given by Germany to 
the United States not to sink merchant ships without 
ensuring the safety of the passengers and crews had been 
broken before, but never in circumstances of more cold- 
blooded brutality." 

A new chapter in sea warfare without parallel in history 
had already opened. 



I. The Mo WE 

With the clearing of the trade routes of the earUer German 
raiders, in circumstances already recorded, British merchant 
ships went about their business unmolested for many 
months outside the war zone which the enemy had 
declared. Since the steamship Colehy had been captured 
by the armed merchant cruiser Kron Prinz Wilhelm on 
March 27th, 1915, no injury had been suffered from enemy 
surface vessels ; indeed, there was good reason for belie\dng 
that there was none at sea. This state of things contri- 
buted to create a false sense of confidence on the part of 
the masters of vessels in the British Merchant Navy. In 
spite of the warnings issued from time to time by the 
Admiralty, many of them were led to the conclusion that 
there M^as no cause to fear further trouble, apart, of course, 
from the menace which submarines and mines represented 
in the waters around the British Isles. The naval authori- 
ties repeatedly stated that, although the enemy was being 
blockaded as effectively as possible, the conditions under 
which that operation was being carried out militated 
against any hard-and-fast guarantee being given that 
one or more German vessels, whether disguised men-of-war 
or auxiliaries, would not break out upon the trade routes 
either from the Baltic or from Germany's North Sea ports. 
The blockade was being conducted at long range and in 
latitudes in which fogs were frequently experienced, and 
during the winter months the dark nights offered oppor- 
tunities for isolated ships to escape the vigilance of the 
British naval forces. That these warnings were fully 
justified events were soon to disclose, for a few days before 
the close of the year 1915, a raider steamed out of Hamburg 
cleverly disguised as an ordinary cargo-vessel ; within a 



few hours she was engaged in the work of mine-laying, and 
then began a systematic course of commerce-destruction. 

This vessel was the Mowe, under the command of Kor- 
vetten-Kapitan Burggraf Graf Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlo- 
dien, a determined, skilful, and, as events were to show, 
humane officer, whose record stands out in marked contrast 
to that of many of his companions in the submarine branch 
of the German naval service. When Count zu Dohna- 
Schlodien received his orders to " lay mines in various 
places along the enemy's coast and then carry on cruiser 
warfare," the Moive had already been equipped with guns 
and provided with mine-laying apparatus, and her disguise 
was complete. She had been painted black-and-white, 
and a Swedish ensign had been emblazoned on each side 
just before the foremost hatch. Her armament had been 
placed behind high bulwarks which were, of course, move- 
able, and nothing was to be seen of her mines. She had 
the appearance of an ordinary Swedish merchant ship, 
distinguished only by a fairly large crow's-nest on the fore- 
mast and a rather high ventilating cowl in front of the 
poop. Thick and stormy weather facilitated the slipping 
of this disguised vessel through the British patrols. She 
crept northwards up the Norwegian coast, and thus passed 
out into the Atlantic after laying two mine-fields —one 
across the Pentland Firth in a gale of wind and snow,^ and 
the other off La Rochelle. She remained at large, capturing 
one British merchantman after another, for a period of 
a month before the Admiralty received information as to 
her doings, and even then the intelligence was of a some- 
what indefinite character. 

On the afternoon of January 11th, 1916, the Farringford 
(3,146 tons) was on passage from Huelva to Liverpool with 
a cargo of copper ore when she sighted two steamers on her 
port bow. The Farringford was about 160 miles to the 
west of Cape Finisterre at the time — well outside the war 
zone. The nearer of the two steamers was about three 
miles distant ; she was flying the Red Ensign and nothing 
in her appearance suggested that she was anything but 
the ordinary merchant ship engaged in peaceful com- 
merce. Suddenly, however, this apparently harmless 
vessel, which was in fact the Mowe, signalled " What ship 

^ H.M.S. King Edward VII was shortly afterwards sunk on this mine- 


is that ? " The master of the Farringford (Mr. Jolin Parry 
Jones) at once hoisted the Red Ensign and was about to 
put up the number of his vessel when the stranger inter- 
vened with two further signals, " Stop immediately ! " and 
" Abandon ship ! " On making these demands the 
mysterious vessel lowered the Red Ensign, and to Captain 
Jones's amazement ran up in its place the German flag, 
at the same time unmasking a powerful battery. 

The British master, realising at once that he had 
no hope of escape, stopped his vessel, and the Mowe, 
turning on her starboard helm, approached close to him. 
Captain Jones then ordered his men to man and fill the 
boats and pull towards the German raider. As soon as 
the crew were aboard, they were placed between decks 
under an armed guard and informed that they were 
prisoners of war ; Captain Jones himself was taken to 
the bridge, where he had the sad ordeal of witnessing 
his vessel being shelled by the Mowe. The hull was 
penetrated near the water's edge close to the boilers 
and engines, but the Farringford did not immediately 
sink, and was still afloat when Captain Jones last saw 

In the meantime, the captain of the Mowe had turned 
about to pay attention to the other vessel already sighted 
by Captain Jones, which proved to be the Corbridge (3,687 
tons) on passage to Rosario with 5,000 tons of coal from 
Barry. The master (Mr. David Barton) had already, of 
course, by the action of the strange vessel on his port bow 
towards the unfortunate Farringford, perceived her true 
nature. He too had received similar signals and had been 
commanded to stop by the German raider. Seeing, how- 
ever, that her attention was for the moment directed 
towards the Farringford, he decided for the present to hold 
upon his course, although several warning shots had been 
fired at him. Soon after 5 o'clock, however, he realised 
that ultimate escape was impossible, and, a shell from one 
of the Mowe's guns passing over his funnel, he deemed it 
his duty to stop his engines. Darkness had now fallen, 
and the Mowe's captain lowered a boat and sent a couple 
of officers and an armed crew aboard the British vessel. 
Finding that she was carrying what was, for the Mowe, 
a particularly valuable cargo of coal, the German captain 
decided that he would not immediately sink the Corbridge ; 

CH. xvii] THE RAroER'S ARMAMENT 383 

Captain Barton and eighteen of his men were transferred 
to the raider, and a German prize crew consisting of two 
officers and six men was placed in charge of the captured 
vessel. The Corbridge was then ordered to follow in the 
wake of the Mowe, which once more returned to the spot 
where the Farringford had last been seen. In spite of the 
bright moonlight, however, no vestige of her was found, 
and there was no doubt that she had ultimately sunk as 
the result of her earlier shelling. 

Thus began the first cruise of the German raider Mowe, 
now revealed to the two unfortunate British captains 
imprisoned on board her as a vessel of some 4,500 tons, 
not very speedy ; she possessed four decks, with two 
torpedo-tubes on the fore deck, four 5* 9-inch guns mounted 
forward, two guns of similar calibre mounted aft, and one 
smaller gun. She had been fitted with rails for mine-laying. 
She also carried a powerful wireless installation. It was 
apparent to observers that a good deal of ingenuity had 
been exhibited in concealing her comparatively heavy 

The Farringford having been sunk, the Corbridge, under 
her German prize crew, was dispatched towards an 
arranged rendezvous on the coast of Brazil, where the 
Mowe intended to coal from her at a later date. On the 
following day, therefore (January 12th), at about 4 p.m., 
Captain Barton saw his vessel disappearing into the 
south-west. This was the day before the next victim 
was destined to fall to the Mowe, namely the Dromonby 
(3,627 tons), carrying between five and six thousand tons 
of coal from Cardiff to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands. 
This West Hartlepool vessel had been at sea for five 
days, when her master (Mr. John Brockett), while in his 
cabin, heard a shot fired. Going on deck immediately, he 
saw an armed merchantman, flying the German ensign, 
about a ship's length away on his port side. He imme- 
diately put his vessel full speed astern and blew three 
blasts on the wliistle. The German vessel hoisted the 
customary signal " What ship is that ? " to which Captain 
Brockett replied by hoisting the number of his vessel. 
The Mowe immediately signalled " Stop instantly! " and 
"Abandon ship!" and realising, as the masters of the 
Farringford and Corbridge had previously done, that any 
resistance would be hopeless, the British captain swung 

n— 26 


out his boats and ordered his crew to leave the ship. The 
captain of the Mowe then sent three or four boatfuls of 
armed men to examine the Dromonby's cargo and her 
papers, which were taken aboard the German vessel. 
The Dromonhy was subsequently sunk, in a position about 
140 miles W. by N. from Cape Finisterre, by explosive 
charges laid and fired by a German demolition party. 
Captain Brockett and his crew had previously been sent 
below decks on board the Mowe to join the other British 
prisoners, and therefore were spared the sight of their 
vessel's destruction. It was an unfortunate loss, as the 
Dromonhy's cargo of coal was destined for the British 
Naval Squadron working in South American waters. 

Scarcely had the Dromonhy gone down when a column 
of smoke to the northward proclaimed to those on board 
the Mowe the approach of yet another possible victim. 
This was the British steamer Author, of Liverpool (3,490 
tons). She was carrying a general cargo of about 5,200 
tons, consigned to various firms at Durban, Delagoa Bay, 
and Vigo, and had left London on January 8th. It was 
about half -past three in the afternoon of January 13th, the 
weather being fine and clear and the sea smooth, when the 
second officer of the Author reported to her master (Mr. 
Ralph Yeates) that a German cruiser was alongside. She 
had approached the Author with the British Ensign flying, 
but had hauled this down when abreast of the British 
vessel, displaying in its stead the German Naval Ensign. 
Captain Yeates immediately went on deck to find the 
raider on his port beam, with her torpedo-tubes showing, 
and two of her 5*9 guns trained on his vessel. As in the 
other cases, it was at once obvious that he had no choice 
but to obey orders. Armed crews from three of the 
Mowe's boats boarded the Author, and, having examined 
her cargo, began to transfer stores to the German vessel, 
some of these, particularly the sheep, hens, and eggs, prov- 
ing naturally a tempting prize to the enemy. After these 
stores had been removed and the Author'' s crew, consisting 
of eleven Englishmen and between forty and fifty Lascars, 
had been taken aboard the Mowe to join the swelling 
number of prisoners already incarcerated there, the sea- 
cocks of the unlucky British vessel were opened and 
explosive charges, with time fuses, were laid to effect 
her sinking. Owing to the foresight of Captain Yeates, 


the ship's confidential papers had already been burnt in 
the ship's galley. 

Little realising what was happening so comparatively 
near at hand, another British steamship, the Trader 
(3,608 tons), was now approaching, on her way to Falmouth 
with a cargo of sugar from Peru. Employed on Admiralty 
service, she had left St. Vincent on January 3rd. She was 
travelling at about 6| knots when her master (Mr. Evan 
Jones) sighted a steamer almost ahead, slightly on his star- 
board bow and about three miles distant. Quite ignorant, 
of course, of what had so lately happened to the unfortunate 
Author, Captain Jones at first saw notliing in her of a 
suspicious character. Suddenly, however, she stopped, 
and immediately afterwards he received the signal " What 
ship is that ? " He replied, and then received further 
questions, " Where from ? " and " Where bound for ? " 
He then himself signalled the stranger, " Who are you ? " 
whereupon he received the reply, " A German cruiser," 
and orders were given to " Stop at once " and to " Abandon 
ship." Like the Farringford, Corhridge, Dromonhy, and 
Author, the Trader was unarmed even for defence, and 
Captain Jones therefore ordered his boats out, and the 
ship was soon almost deserted. He himself remained on 
board with his chief officer and two seamen, while the 
German cruiser sent across a boatful of armed men and 
ordered the Trader's boats to go across to the Mowe. 
The German boarding-party then came aboard the Trader 
and began to search for papers, but only succeeded in 
finding the official log and the bills of lading. They placed 
explosive charges in the Trader's No. 2 hold, engine-room, 
and No. 3 hold, and re-embarked, taking with them 
Captain Yeates, his chief officer and the two seamen. 
The Trader sank as a result of three explosions before her 
captain had reached the side of the German vessel. 

There were now some 150 British prisoners on board the 
Mowe under conditions of crowding and ventilation that 
were far from pleasant, and were in fact also becoming 
something of a menace to the captain of the Mowe himself, 
who, it should be added, did what he could to mitigate 
the hardships of his " passengers " by separating the 
white seamen from the black and giving permission to the 
men to go on deck from time to time to get some fresh air. 
For two days no further prey fell to the enemy ; and it 


was not until about 7 o'clock on the morning of January 
15th that the next victim, the British steamship Ariadne 
(3,035 tons), sighted the Mowe about 120 miles north of 
the Canaries. This vessel was carrying a cargo of maize 
from Rosario to Nantes. She had been at sea since 
December 6th and was now nearing her destination, so 
that the feelings of her master (Mr. Robert Reed) and crew 
can well be imagined when what was apparently an 
innocent British steamer, flying the Red Ensign, suddenly 
altered her course to pass under the Ariadne's stern, and 
coming up on her starboard side, lowered the Red Ensign, 
hoisted the German flag, and revealed her armament of 
guns. The usual procedure followed : Captain Reed 
stopped his engines, and the raider sent an armed boat's 
crew aboard, who ordered him to put out his own boats 
and abandon his ship. Captain Reed and his chief en- 
gineer alone were retained on board while the explosive 
charges and time fuses were fixed, and were then taken 
back as prisoners to the Mowe. In this instance, however, 
the explosions did not take place as arranged, and the 
Mowe was in consequence forced to sacrifice one of her 
torpedoes in order to sink the Ariadne, after previously 
firing some dozen shots at her. 

The scene of operations was well chosen from the Mowers 
point of view. Hardly had the Ariadne disappeared than 
a column of smoke was sighted from the deck of the Mowe, 
this time to the starboard. It proceeded from the funnels 
of a British steamship that was presently destined, for 
many weary months, to be the subject of world-wide 
interest in maritime legal circles and to prove a test case 
of America's attitude towards one phase of modern sea 
warfare. The vessel was the Elder Dempster steamship 
Appam (7,781 tons), and she was carrying a considerable 
number of passengers, including some invalided soldiers 
and naval ratings, as well as a score of German prisoners 
of war, from the Cameroons Defence Force, Among her 
civilian passengers were Sir E. M. Merewether, Governor 
of Sierra Leone, and Mr. F. S. James, C.M.G., Administrator 
of Nigeria. The Appam (master, Mr. H. C. Harrison) had 
left Freetown for Plymouth on January 9th, calling two 
days later at Dakar, where a 3-pounder gun had been 
shipped and mounted aft. She was some sixty miles to 
the north of Madeira, when, early in the afternoon of 

CH. xvii] EASY VICTIMS 387 

January 15th, an ordinary cargo -steamer was observed 
approaching from the north-east. Having already that 
same day passed a British cargo- boat outward bound in 
the same direction, the natural assumption of those on 
board was that this was but another merchant vessel of 
the same character. At half-past two, as the stranger 
appeared to be crossing the Appani's course, the second 
officer, who was in charge of the Elder Dempster vessel 
at the time, altered his course a little so as to clear. She 
was then seen to be flying the signal to stop. 

On this being reported to Captain Harrison, he hurried 
to the bridge and saw to his dismay that the approaching 
ship was heavily armed and was flying the German En- 
sign. Having at his disposal nothing more powerful than 
his 3-pounder gun. Captain Harrison realised at once that 
he would be rendering a disastrous disservice to the pas- 
sengers, both men and women, whom he had on board 
if he attempted resistance. He accordingly stopped his 
ship. While Lieutenant Lamble, R.N.R., was attempting 
to remove the breech-block of the 3-pounder, he was 
observed by the Germans, who fired two shots at him, 
happily without result. The Appam was then boarded 
by an armed boat's crew from the raider, the Mowe keeping 
close to the British vessel, with her guns trained on her. 
The German officer in charge of the boat's crew made full 
inquiries as to the ship's passengers, cargo, coal, speed, 
etc., and then placed the master under arrest, telling him 
to pack up his effects. He was subsequently sent on board 
the Mowe. Although the Appam carried a wireless 
installation, the close neighbourhood of the German 
raider and her overpowering armament rendered this 
practically useless for purposes of defence. The Appam, 
therefore, fell into the German's hands as easily as her 
unfortunate predecessors had done. It was now quite 
impossible for the Mowe, glutted as she was with prisoners 
from her already captured victims, to accommodate on 
board the crew and passengers of the Appam, and the 
commanding officer accordingly decided to send her, in 
charge of a prize crew, to a neutral port. 

Before doing so, however, the Appam was ordered to 
remain for a couple of days in company with her captor ; 
and she thus became the witness of a very plucky effort 
at resistance made by the next victim of the Mowe, wliich 


turned out to be the Clan Mactavish. This Clan liner 
had been built as recently as the first year of the war. 
With a valuable cargo, including wool, frozen mutton, 
copper, M'heat, leather, and canned meats, she had left 
Fremantle, in Australia, on December 9th. Arriving at 
Durban on December 23rd, she had there landed mails 
and cargo, taking on board some more wool. She had 
afterwards put into Cape Town, sailing thence on the last 
day of the year, with orders to call at Dakar and ship 
a gun. Here she arrived on January 12th, a 6-pounder 
was mounted, and two naval ratings were shipped to take 
charge of this meagre armament. Leaving Dakar on 
January 13th, the Clan Mactavish (5,816 tons) (master, 
Mr. W. N. Oliver) had shaped her course to pass westward 
of the Canary Islands. Her gun, which stood on a platform 
fixed on the port quarter, was only useful for protecting 
one side of the vessel and her stern, the starboard side 
being totally undefended. 

Passing the Island of Palma early on January 16th, it 
was not until 5 o'clock in the evening that she sighted 
a vessel about three points on her port bow, a second vessel 
showing up soon afterwards in the same direction. They 
both appeared to be ordinary merchant vessels, and from 
the direction in which they were steaming, Captain Oliver 
came to the conclusion that they were probably bound 
from some South American port and were making for the 
Mediterranean. Just as dusk was falling, however, the 
nearer of the two vessels began to approach so close that 
Captain Oliver ordered his helm to be ported, as the strange 
ship showed no signs of giving way, although under the 
circumstances it was her duty to have done so. A message 
was then received, morsed by lamp, " What ship is that ? " 
Captain Oliver at once replied by asking the stranger to 
report her own name. The answer came, "The Trader, of 
Liverpool," and, as this vessel was known to Captain 
Oliver, he replied by gi'sdng the name of the Clan Mactavish. 
The two vessels were steaming side by side, some 300 
yards apart, the Mowe, as she in fact was, being on the 
port side of the Clan Mactavish. Within a few minutes 
Captain Oliver received the signal " Stop at once ! I am 
a German cruiser." Captain Oliver, with his instinctive 
courage, instantly ordered full speed ahead and sent the 
gun's crew to their stations : he was determined to make 


a fight for his ship. The wireless operator of the Clan 
Mactavish instantly dispatched a signal for help : "I am in 
imminent danger of capture by the enemy in lat. 30° 40' N., 
long. 17° 10' W. — Clan Mactavish^ It was taken in on 
board H.M.S. Essex, but was not reported to the decoding 
officer, and thus by this mischance the Mowe gained a 
further lease of life. The signal was the first news of the 
movements of the raider, and owing to the failure of two 
bluejackets it was of no avail. Whether it would have 
enabled the British naval forces to capture the Mowe is, 
however, a matter of doubt. 

When the German raider perceived that the warning to 
stop was being ignored, she fired a shot across the bows 
of the Clan Mactavish, followed by another. One shell 
landed on the fore-deck of the Clan Mactavish, close to 
her windlass, killing the man in the lookout. Captain 
Oliver ordered that the enemy's fire should be returned, 
not realising at first that the Mowe's armament was of such 
a powerful nature, but presuming it probably to be of 
somewhat the same calibre as his own. The enemy shells 
now began to rain heavily upon the British vessel. One, 
landing on the fiddly deck, killed seven men ; a second 
holed the ship's side in the neighbourhood of the bridge, 
wrecking the stewards' room and damaging the second 
officer's cabin, as well as blowing away the ship's gig ; 
a third holed the Clan Mactavish below the water-line ; 
and a final one burst the main steam-pipe and thus put 
her engines out of action. Captain Oliver was accordingly 
left with no alternative than to cease firing, and he signalled 
the raider to that effect, having sustained a loss of eighteen 
Lascars killed and five or six wounded. 

The Moive then signalled to know if there were any 
wounded on board, to which Captain Oliver replied that 
there were. He received an order for all his boats to be 
lowered, and just as he had done so, a boat from the Mowe 
came alongside under the command of a lieutenant. The 
crew of the Clan Mactavish were lined up on deck, and 
directed to take their places in the boats. Bombs were 
placed on board the captured British vessel in order to 
effect her sinking speedily, and Captain Oliver, together 
with his chief engineer and wireless operator, was taken 
over to the Mowe in the German boat. All confidential 
documents had previously been destroyed, and the breech- 


block of the gun and all rifle ammunition had been thrown 
overboard. One of the first sights that met Captain 
Oliver's eyes when he reached the Mowe was that of the 
bodies of three Germans being carried aft for burial. 
Before returning to the adventures of the Appam, it may 
here be stated that Captain Oliver, his native crew and his 
two naval ratings, were retained on board the Mowe till 
the end of her first cruise, when she returned safely to 
Germany. Captain Oliver was then interned in a prison 
camp at Hameln, where he remained in captivity for two 
years. He was afterwards decorated on his return to 
England with the D.S.C. 

During these weeks of activity on the part of the Mowe, 
anxiety was felt in England as to the fate of a number of 
ships. The finding of a lifeboat marked Appam by 
the steamer Tregantle suggested that the vessel had en- 
countered bad weather and had been at least delayed. 
For at this time nothing was known of the escape of the 
Mowe, much less of her movements at sea. But the veil Mas 
about to be lifted. Count zu Dohna-Schlodien had so many 
prisoners that he had to get rid of them. By mischance 
British cruisers were active in every area except those in 
which the Mowe, unknown to anyone, was operating. 
The Clan Mactavish was sunk on Sunday, January 16th, 
about 120 miles S. by W. (true) from Funchal, and on the 
day after her destruction the final arrangements for sending 
the Appam to a neutral port, then undisclosed, were made. 
At about 5 o'clock on the evening of January 17th, certain 
officers and men from some of the vessels previously 
captured by the Mowe were transferred to the Appam., 
and at about 9 o'clock the two ships parted company, the 
Appam, proceeding in a westerly direction. 

She arrived under the command of one of the Mowe's 
officers. Lieutenant Berg, and in charge of a prize crew, at 
Hampton Roads, Virginia, on February 1st. No passen- 
gers were allowed to land, and no communication with 
the shore was permitted, but at 6 o'clock in the evening 
Sir Edward Merewether, Mr. James, and one or two others 
were allowed to land at Old Point Comfort in order to 
confer with the Naval Attache to the British Embassy and 
the Vice-Consul of North Virginia. It was then declared 
that all passengers were free to leave the ship with the 
exception of the naval and military officers and men on 


board, whose release had been objected to by the German 

On the following day, February 3rd, the Appam was 
taken up to Newport News, and there ensued a long 
series of communications between the various Foreign 
Offices concerned as to the future of the ship and those 
still on board her. It was finally decided on July 29th, 
1916, by Judge Waddell, that the Appam had lost her 
status as prize when she entered American territorial 
waters to remain indefinitely ; that the manner of bringing 
her, as well as her prisoners, into the waters of the United 
States constituted a violation of the neutrality of the 
United States ; that she had come in without bidding or 
permission ; that she had remained in violation of the law ; 
that she was unable to leave for lack of crew, which she 
could not provide or augment without further violation 
of neutrality ; that in her present condition she was with- 
out a lawful right to be or.- remain in the waters of the 
United States ; and that she should therefore be returned 
to her owners. An appeal was made to the Supreme 
Court of the United States, but the decision was upheld in 
a judgment delivered on March 6th, 1917. It was estab- 
lished that the Appam was not brought into an American 
port otherwise than as a prize, captured at sea by a cruiser 
of the German Navy. It was held that the true rule of 
International Law was that a prize could only be brought 
into a neutral port on account of unseaworthiness, stress 
of weather, or want of fuel or provisions. The Court 
decided that the use of an American port by the Germans 
in which they might store prizes indefinitely was in fact 
a violation of neutrality, and that it could not be justified 
by existing treaties between America and Germany. The 
appeal was accordingly dismissed and the decrees for the 
restitution of the vessel, with the cargo, to the owners 
were affirmed. 

To return to the Mowe, it will be recalled that her second 
capture, the Corbridge, with her cargo of coal, had been 
dispatched south to an appointed rendezvous, where the 
captain of the Mowe proposed later to meet her, for coaling 
purposes. After the capture of the Appam and the 
sinking of the Clan Mactavish, the Mowe accordingly pro- 
ceeded southwards with this object. On January 22nd 
she was sighted by a three-masted British barque, the 


Edinburgh, of Glasgow. With a gross tonnage of a little 
over 1,400, she was an iron-built vessel, some thirty years 
old, and was proceeding with a cargo of rice meal from 
Rangoon to Liverpool, having left the former port on 
September 22nd, 1915. She had reached a point some 
700 miles W. by S. | S. (true) from St. Vincent, Cape 
Verde Islands, and all was well. It was 4.30 in the after- 
noon that her master (Mr. Samuel W. Burnley) first sighted 
the German raider on his starboard side, some six miles 

He proceeded on his course unsuspectingly. The strange 
steamer came up under his stern, hailed him, and asked 
him to show his distinguishing flag. Before he had time 
to do so, however, the mysterious vessel signalled that a 
boat was being sent across. Captain Burnley backed his 
mainyard, and two boats, full of armed men, came along- 
side. They were in charge of a lieutenant, who told Captain 
Burnley that they were about to sink his ship. After 
allowing time for him and his crewto collecttheir belongings, 
the German officer then took them, together with all avail- 
able provisions, aboard the German raider. Before doing 
so, fuse bombs had been placed in each of the three hatches, 
and about 8 o'clock in the evening the old Edinburgh 
slowly disappeared from sight, a tragic spectacle for her 
master to witness in the bright moonlight of a tropical 
night. Six days later, on January 28th, the Corbridge 
w^as again sighted off Maraca Island, and for three days 
the German raider proceeded to coal from her, after which 
she was towed into deep water and sunk. Count zu 
Dohna-Schlodien realised that the news of his activities had 
by this time got abroad, so he steamed to the vicinity 
of the Rocas. 

On February 4th the Mowe sank a Belgian steamship, 
the Luxembourg, carrying nearly 6,000 tons of coal to 
Buenos Aires, in a position about eighty miles to the east- 
ward of Fernando Noronha, and then Count zu Dohna 
steamed slowly to the north-west. On the 6th the Mowe 
was seen by the British steamship Flamenco, some two 
miles distant on the port side. The Flamenco (4,629 tons) 
was bound, with a cargo of coal, from Newport to Santos. 
Noticing that the approaching vessel appeared to be 
getting too close to him, the master of the Flamenco 
(Mr. Norman Martorell) ported his helm in order to avoid 

CH. xvii] A CLOSE CALL 393 

her. The Flamenco, which was carrying a wireless instal- 
lation, then received two signals, " Stop immediately ! " 
and " Do not telegraph ! " and at the same time saw the 
German Naval Ensign flying from the strange vessel's 
mast. Simultaneously a shot passed across the bows of 
the British vessel. Captain Martorell, disregarding the 
enemy's warning, immediately sent out wireless mes- 
sages, upon which the raider fired five more shells, three 
holing the British vessel amidships, one striking her just 
under the bridge and another under the wireless cabin. 
Captain Martorell could do no more. He ordered his 
crew to the boats, which were swung out and lowered, 
but unfortunately one of these got into difficulties and 
was capsized, a fireman being drowned. The boats pulled 
away from the ship's side, and an armed boat's crew from 
the raider came alongside. Picking up the survivors of 
the crew of the capsized dinghy, the Germans proceeded 
on board, put Captain Martorell under arrest and took 
him across to the Mbwe. The Flamenco was now in flames 
and rapidly sinking, and a second boat's crew from the 
German vessel finished her destruction with a bomb, the 
vessel sinking at a point about 310 miles N.E. by N. (true) 
from Pernambuco. How near the Mowe had come, at this 
point, to the end of her predatory career may be gathered 
from the fact that the Flamenco had been in touch with the 
British cruiser Glasgow only the day before. There is 
reason to believe that the Glasgow and the Mowe had 
passed each other during the previous afternoon, and had 
the Glasgow been near enough to see the enemy raider, 
the exploits of the Mowe might have had a different ending. 
That was on February 6th, and two days later, on 
February 8th, the Mowe was sighted at about 5.30 p.m. 
by the British steamer Westhurn. This was a com- 
paratively old and slow vessel (3,300 tons), and was bound 
with a cargo of nearly 4,000 tons of coal from Cardiff to 
Buenos Aires, She had left Cardiff on December 28th, 
but had been forced, as a result of damage sustained 
during bad weather, to put into Liverpool on January 
4th, where she had remained till the 21st. Since leaving 
Liverpool all had gone well, and the weather was fine and 
clear when, in the position lat. 0° 11' N., long. 31° 30' W., the 
chief ofl^icer (Mr. George Wilkinson), who was on the bridge, 
saw a strange vessel, which was in fact the Mowe, about 


four points on his starboard bow and some seven miles 
away, steering straight towards him. 

An hour later, when it was nearly dark, the strange 
vessel, then only about a mile away on his port beam, 
began to signal asking for the name of his ship. The 
master of the Westburn (Mr. A. T. Campbell) had now 
joined the chief officer on the bridge. Both of them were 
very suspicious of the other vessel's movements. Captain 
Campbell replied to the German signals, describing himself 
as the master of a Danish vessel. The Westburn was 
accordingly allowed to proceed, but, at about a quarter 
to eight, she was again signalled by the enemy and told 
to stop, a gun being fired as a peremptory warning. Cap- 
tain Campbell at once stopped the Westburn, and a motor- 
boat came across to him from the raider. The lieutenant 
in charge made the usual inquiries. The Westburn's boats 
were promptly lowered and her crew and officers sent 
across to the Mbwe, the captain soon afterwards following 
in charge of the German lieutenant. The Westburn was 
not, however, immediately sunk, as the commander of the 
Mowe evidently had other views about her ; and those 
who were taken captive from her became the witnesses, 
at 5.30 o'clock the next morning, of the capture of the 
steamship Horace (3,335 tons), of Liverpool. 

This vessel (master, Mr. D. William Hughes) was bound 
with a general cargo to Buenos Aires. The Mowe was 
within about three-quarters of a mile of her, when the 
Horace received the usual signal to stop. Captain Hughes 
immediately altered his course westward in order to avoid 
a collision. The Mowe responded by firing a shot across 
his poop, hoisting at the same time the German Naval 
Ensign. Captain Hughes then stopped and hoisted the 
British Ensign, and ten minutes later the Mowe signalled 
that she was sending a boat to him. At 6 o'clock an 
armed guard boarded his vessel and took charge. At 
first Captain Hughes was told that the Horace would be 
used to convey some of the prisoners now crowding the 
Mowe to Brazil, but, finding that she was carrying among 
other things a consignment of copper, the commander of 
the Mbwe ordered her to be sunk. Captain Hughes and 
his men were accordingly taken off the Horace and put on 
board the Westburn, which had now come up in charge of 
her German prize crew. At 11 o'clock explosive charges 


were fired on board the Horace, and an hour later she had 
disappeared from sight. 

It was now clear that Count zu Dohna intended to use 
the Westburn, much as he had used the Appam, to free 
himself from his very congested cargo of British captives. 
Those who remained, therefore, of the crews of the pre- 
viously captured Edinburgh, Flamenco, Clan Mactavish, 
Horace, and Corbridge, in company with the officers and 
men of the Belgian steamship Luxembourg, which had also 
been captured by the Mowe, were placed on board the 
Westburn, and told that they would be landed. Accord- 
ingly the Westburn was placed in charge of Lieutenant 
Badewitz and a German prize crew, together with some 
neutrals to assist in navigating the vessel, and on February 
9th she left the Mowe with about 200 prisoner passengers 
on board. The captured British naval and military 
officers, together with some naval ratings and coolies, and 
the master and second mate of the Westburn, as well as the 
master of the Clan Mactavish, were retained on board 
the Mowe. 

The Westburn was near the Equator when she was cast 
off, and she was steered in the direction of the Cape Verde 
Islands. On February 15th the vessel again turned south, 
suggesting that the commanding officer was intending to 
break the pledge which Count zu Dohna had given. On 
the following day, therefore, the masters of the captured 
vessels addressed the following letter to the German officer 
in charge. 

" The commander of the Mowe told us we should be 
landed in five days and we are still at sea. At your 
request we provided engineers and firemen, without 
promise of payment and against their wishes, to run this 
vessel. During the past two days the men have com- 
plained that the food is not sufficient. We shall be pleased, 
therefore, if you will kindly let us know your intentions 
as to when and where you propose to land us that we can 
let the men know and relieve their anxiety." 

The merchant seamen were, in fact, existing in the 
hold in conditions of great hardship : they had little 
ventilation, their food was badly cooked, and the heat 
was insufferable. 


Lieutenant Badewitz then came aft and informed the 
masters that he would take them either to Las Palmas or 
Tenerife if they so desired, or that he would land them 
earlier on a desert island. To this they replied that they 
would prefer to be taken to Las Palmas or Tenerife. The 
course of the Westburn was then directed towards the latter 
island, and it was about half -past two in the afternoon of 
February 22nd that she entered the port of Santa Cruz, 
flying the German Naval Flag. To Lieutenant Badewitz's 
amazement, the British armoured cruiser H.M.S. Sutlej 
happened also to be in the harbour. The Port Authorities 
and the German Consul immediately went off to the cap- 
tured merchantman, and returned with the information 
that the German commander of the Westburn had come 
to the port in order to land his prisoners and obtain pro- 

At the moment of the Westburn's entrance. Captain 
Basil H. Fanshawe, in command of the Sutlej, with 
three of his officers, were in the British Consulate, but 
on receiving the information that a steamship under the 
German Ensign was entering the harbour from the south, 
they immediately returned on board and the Sutlej 
shortly afterwards got up steam and got out of territorial 
waters so as to watch proceedings. There then followed 
various negotiations as to the status of the Westburn and 
her treatment by the Spanish authorities, during which 
the British Consul was allowed to send provisions on 
board her for the prisoners, who by that time had be- 
come seriously short of food. On the next day, Feb- 
ruary 23rd, all the British prisoners were handed over 
to the British Consul and the bulk of them were later 
transferred to the R.M.S, Athenic, which had arrived at 
Santa Cruz en route for England. Later in the day, the 
Westburn was observed to be moving from her original 
anchorage and she proceeded about a mile along the coast, 
where she anchored some three-quarters of a mile from 
the shore ; she was followed by the German Coaling Com- 
pany's steam-launch and a tug-boat. Soon afterwards 
she was noticed to be settling down, and about half an hour 
afterwards she sank. The German crew left the ship in 
the steam-launch, having, as was afterwards affirmed, 
deliberately scuttled the vessel in Spanish territorial 


The Mowe was now nearing the end of her cruise. 
Count zu Dohna must have reahsed that a hue and cry had 
been raised and that AUied men-of-war were seeking for 
him. So on or about February 10th he turned homewards. 
On the 24th a French vessel, the Maroni, was captured 
and sunk while bound from Bordeaux to New York with a 
general cargo, and then, some 620 miles west (true) from the 
Fastnet, the last of the Mowe's British victims, during this, 
her first, cruise, fell in with her. This was the Saxon Prince 
(3,471 tons). This Prince liner (master, Mr. W. S. Jame- 
son) was homeward bound from Norfolk, Virginia, to 
Manchester with a cargo of some 5,000 tons of steel, 
cotton, and grain. She was unarmed and carried no muni- 
tions, guns, or explosives. Leaving Norfolk on February 
13th, the voyage proceeded without incident until about 
6 o'clock in the morning of February 25th, when a steamer 
approaching from the northward on the port side was 
reported by the lookout. Two flags were hoisted on board 
the strange vessel, but owing to the fact that they were 
end on to the Saxon Prince, their nature could not be 

Gradually approaching until within about half a mile, 
the mysterious ship fired a blank shot at the Saxo?i Prince 
as a signal to stop. Captain Jameson had no alternative 
but to obey. The unknown vessel approached closer, and 
it was then seen that she was flying the German Ensign. 
An armed crew boarded the Saxon Prince, Having ex- 
amined the cargo and ship's papers, all on board the 
Saxon Prince were ordered into the boats, and bombs 
were placed on the deck of the British vessel. These were 
exploded as soon as the boats had left, the Saxon Prince 
at once listing to port and beginning to sink ; she dis- 
appeared in less than an hour. With the commander of 
the Saxon Prince (Captain Jameson) on board, together 
with the British crew, the Mowe now succeeded, largely 
aided by the rough weather, dense snow-squalls, and 
driving fog-banks, in eluding the patrol-vessels of the 
Tenth Cruiser Squadron, and reached German territorial 
waters without adven